“I think I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice, of a generation” – Hanna Horvath “Girls” HBO 2013
One of my favorite new comics is Chelsea Peretti. She is on Brooklyn 99 but has also made appearances on Louie, Parks and Rec, Key and Peele, Kroll Show and others. She is a great Twitter follow, and has her own podcast that I don’t listen to.
But her one and only comedy special is called “One of the Greats”, which is a rather hilarious thing for a relatively new comic to title her very first hour. Clearly it is in jest, but still carries with it a lot of confidence and moxie.
I like to pair that sentiment with the line I quoted from one of my favorite shows on TV right now, HBO’s “Girls”. There has been a lot of digital ink spilled over how real of a sentiment that is for Lena Dunham (creator of the show, head writer, and lead actor whose character said those words), but I don’t really care to get into that. But what I do want to get into is that her character, Hannah, probably does feel that way, even if she couched it in some humor. In later episodes she refers to herself as being smarter than everyone around her and wants to feel and experience everything, which will set her apart from ‘normal’ people
It is an interesting juxtaposition, especially if you know the people. Peretti has been doing stand up for a decade, worked tirelessly to hone her craft, and upon receiving her first special, decides to make fun of the fact that she is not a ‘great’ comedian. Hanna Horvath is barely out of college, has spent her entire adult life living off of her parents, writes very well but not often enough for it to be included in the show much and already believes herself to be the voice of her generation, before she is even published.
The reason I bring any of this up, besides the fact that I love the art both of these women create, is because both of these lines really hit home for me.
I have mentioned before that my goal in life is to the best smartest, funniest, most likeable person you know. I want people to be saddened when I am not coming to an event, I want them to be excited when I am, and I want them to be delighted while I am there. I very desperately want to be One of the Greats without irony, in every walk of life I pursue. And while I am busy treading that lifestyle I want to be able jokingly refer to myself as great to see who is infuriated by my cocksureness, and who thinks it is funny.
But I am not confident enough to joke about myself being great until I really am.
When I was in high school, and again later in college, I was determined to make a name for myself in life. Whether it be music or art or architecture or writing or anything, I was going to be known. I was going to have a strong legacy. My parents and my children and my grandchildren would be proud to be related to me. My college roommate and I would spend beer fueled hours talking about how we were going to change the world. Our mission statement was ‘achieve greatness, die young’ because we believed that the key to maintaining a strong legacy was a short life.
I have written before about the lack-luster jobs I held before I switched careers was more than difficult to swallow. It broke me, in a lot of ways. I felt lied to and cheated and broken by the realization that my dreams weren’t at all based in reality.
Looking back through my life, I am a lot more like Hannah Horvath than I care to admit. I felt destined for greatness too, despite the fact that I had not lived any considerable amount of time in any real capacity; despite the fact that I had not ever done anything in the real world that would make me think I was capable of it; despite the fact that even if I had talent (which I didn’t), I didn’t have any discernible method for turning it into a living.
I still want to be great, but I have no way of doing it. And, let’s be honest, what I want is impossible anyway.
I feel like I have mellowed a lot in the last year in a lot of ways. And one of the biggest ways is just trying to be relaxed about my career, about my artistic endeavors, about my life. In doing so I have found that I have actually become more involved in all of those things, oddly.
I know that the desires I have are not only silly and impossible, but they are childish as well. But none of that stops the fact that they are still within me. I can intellectualize all day long about how my life is better now and that I am happier now than I ever was before. I can relate to the idea that family and my daughter is all that I need. I can say that this blog and some amateur photography is all I need artistically (especially when I know I don’t have any artistic talent). I can realize that I don’t have a drive to go do an open mic session of comedy, or try to go professional as a blogger or podcaster. I know that where I am is almost entirely a product of what I need and what I can achieve.
And yet, I cannot quell the voices in my head driving me to become everything to everyone.
I think the saddest actuality of this is that for a long time, and probably still today, when I realized I could not do something or that someone was better than me at something, I would tear them down with words. I would criticize the things I was bested at. If someone was better than me, at least you would get to hear how flawed they were as well. This reached a fever pitch in college, when I wasn’t even near the leader board in any category. And to accentuate this, all of our professors would simply rip you apart if they didn’t like your work but couldn’t beat you in argument. I was literally learning to do this.
This stuff is all the majority of what I work on in therapy. I have made real progress. And one day, maybe, I will be able to let go of the idea that I don’t have to be a known person to be important. Or, one day I might realize that I am all of those things, the best and funniest and smartest and most charming and compassionate person, to some people, just maybe not all at the same time.