Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Candle in a Dark Room

Jason and I watched Conan O'Brien's final appearance on the Tonight Show last night. When we discovered we could watch it at 9:30 pm we got in the habit of catching Conan's stand-up once in awhile and I loved his offbeat, nerdy sense of humour. We caught most of the shows this week because of the controversy around NBC yanking Conan and putting Jay Leno back at the Tonight Show due to his failed prime-time project. Conan was marginally bitter about NBC all week and it made for some good comedy, but last night was unexpectedly touching as he wound down the clock on his time behind the famous Tonight Show desk.

He made a brief statement from the heart, saying that NBC had been his home for the last 20 years, and even though they were parting ways, he had nothing but gratitude for what they had done for him. He said that every comedian dreams of hosting the Tonight Show, and he got to do it for 7 months, and do it his way. He thanked his fans for their outpouring of support and said he would think of it for the rest of his life. He finished by urging people not to be cynical, particularly young people, that cynicism is his least favourite trait and he promised it will get you nowhere. My favourite line was, "Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."

I didn't expect to go to bed and have those words rolling around in my head, but that happened. Then I fell asleep and 10 minutes later, William was in our room with a bleeding nose, and after I cleaned that up I really couldn't go back to sleep, so I thought about it some more. Not only was it a classy way to end a television show, but his words had the ring of truth to them. It's all in your perspective. If you choose to dwell on the fact that you've been screwed out of something, your attitude will be cynical, miserable and you will become a victim. Conan was taking control of his own life and destiny by intentionally focusing on the positive, "Hey, people, I got to do my dream job for 7 months and it was amazing, please don't feel sorry for me!" In the jaded age we live in, this kind of optimism is like a candle in a dark room, cutting through the darkness and bravely lighting the way.

Nobody gets what they want all of the time. It's a fact of life. But when entitlement begins to creep in, we start to feel as though we deserve everything we want. Our culture feeds this by advertising lifestyles that are impossible to attain, and then rubbing our noses in it when we don't measure up (the beer doesn't actually taste that good, we aren't on a yacht with our rich and gorgeous friends, our house doesn't look like the spread in Better Homes & Gardens). I love that Conan chose to remind people that life isn't perfect. You roll with the punches. Get up, move on, don't let the outside circumstances you can't control rule your destiny. You are the captain of your own fate, the master of your soul.

Then there was the advice to work hard and be kind, and you will see amazing things happen. I believe this to be true from the top of my head to the soles of my giant feet. It's so encouraging to me when someone says something simple, but so true, and I realize that I feel exactly the same way but didn't have the right words for it. Thank you, Conan, for taking the classy high road, and for your genuine words of wisdom last night. I wish you all the best in whatever form your future takes. You will be fine, as your positive attitude will light the path ahead for you.

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