‘Cause If You’re Dying To Be Led, They’ll Lead You Up the Hill in Chains To Their Popular Refrains
A few years back, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love on a flight from Chicago to San Diego after being promised by a friend that it would change my life.
A quick list of things I’ve been told would change my life: Eat, Pray, Love, pilates, Garden State, “Glee” and deep fried Snicker bars at the Illinois State Fair. Only one of those things was actually life-altering, and it’s fair time, bitches.
That greasy, chocolatey instance aside, I am wary of anything that promises to change the way I think. For one thing, it never does, and, secondly, I like the way I think.
This is what seems to separate me from people like Elizabeth Gilbert.
Eat, Pray, Love was a perfectly fine airplane book. It got me from the Midwest to the coast and had its enjoyable moments, then I took it back and exchanged it for Consider the Lobster. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t life-affecting (or -affirming, for that matter). It was just fine.
It’s what it represents that bothers me.
Bitch Magazine did a great piece a few months back about “priv-lit” - the phenomenon of women (it truly is predominately women) attempting to “find themselves” and attain spirituality through trendy and often very costly means. Whether it’s a week-long Bikram camp or the hiring of a life coach, this strange notion of empowerment through spending, a strange combination of misunderstood feminism mixed with latter-day yuppiedom, is incredibly bizarre to me. But in a world where Oprah tells us we’re not complete until we understand The Secret and Jennifer Aniston tells us to scream at the ocean until our dreams come true, how else are the unhappily bored who are too unoriginal to change things supposed to change anything?
What is infuriating to me about Eat, Pray, Love and other self-helpy, I’m-rich-and-WASPy-and-I-found-myself-through-Eastern-meditation is this: the idea that I need to be found at all. What is this obsession with finding ourselves? What the fuck does it even mean? Why is the “Sex and the City” generation so freaked out by being temporarily bored or melancholy? We all get bored. We all get sad. We find a way out of it. That’s how it works. But taking a trip, reading a book or taking a class is not going to do the trick. If you hate your life, going to Italy isn’t going to make you hate it less. It will just mean you had a sweet vacation and will hate yourself again in a little while. If you’re unhappy in your marriage, just get a fucking divorce. It sucks, it’s painful, it’s devastating, but people do it every day and they go on with their lives, go back to work, move on. They don’t take yearlong trips to foreign lands to whine about how miserable their rich comfortable lives are and talk about eating carbs like it’s some revolutionary idea.
I don’t need to be found. I don’t need help. I don’t need rules to guide my life. It’s fucking existence, and I resent the idea that I somehow don’t know how to do it.
There is no secret to happiness. There is no mystical key that will unlock this better inner-self you think you possess. If you’re genuinely depressed, please, by all means get help. But if you’re bored or tolerably unhappy, change things. Get a new job, get out of your shitty marriage and get a hobby. If you go to Bali for a year, your problems will still be around when you get back, and you probably won’t get your trip paid for with a cush book deal.
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