My sister could hardly finish her story as she spoke through laughter, “and then, Jack was like, ‘he’s married, Liz,’ and he did that disappointed head shake thing he does…” She was recounting the episode of 30 Rock as if she had been in the room with them and as if I were a mutual friend of all of theirs who needed to hear every detail.
It’s interesting how we become invested in strangers lives, isn’t it? We follow tv show characters’ lives season after season, root for reality show contestants, and gossip about celebrity relationships. We rush home to catch the latest performance on Dancing With The Stars or to cheer for the baseball team we’ve claimed as our own. Heck, sometimes we even let a Hallmark or Nike commercial move us to tears. I wonder though, are these artificial relationships with people we will never meet face to face overshadowing the relationships we share with the people we see every day?
The first time I saw The Office, I was dumbfounded that it was a tv show. I would avoid the characters on that show like the plague if I ever met them in real life, surely I wasn’t going to sit down and welcome them into my home. I remember it was about that time that the phrases, “we should have our own tv show” and “they should make this into a tv show” became mainstays in the American language. The truth is, anyone who says that is perfectly right. Anything can be made into a tv show. Untamed fishermen, desperate housewives, dysfunctional families, meerkats, boring jobs, interesting jobs, bakeries, retail stores, you name it. My workplace is just as weird and my friends and family are just as interesting as any I see on tv. In fact, I wouldn’t be suprised if the guy in the apartment across from me isn’t just as interesting as anyone I would see on a reality tv show.
So why don’t we choose to get as invested in the success and happiness of the people around us as we do in the people on tv? Why do we encourage and support strangers on Biggest Loser to lose weight more than the coworker who is battling obesity right in front of us? Why do we watch a chef create a brilliant dessert instead of baking our own?
I think it’s time we put the entertainment value back in our lives. We may not have writers developing plot lines or a director influencing our every moves, but I bet if we made it a point to go out of the house more than we stay in, to try new things on a regular basis, and to take chances when they come our way, we would have enough of a story to keep ourselves and our friends enraptured in the here and now.
I want to pay better attention to what’s going on in my friends’ lives too. I want the charities that they’re passionate about to catch my heart just as much as one that Oprah highlights on her show, I want to be fans at their 5K races just as much as I am a fan to my favorite professional teams during their competitions, and I want my friend’s live performances to be as important to make as a sold out concert at the Bowl.
My first goal is to better know the people I encounter everyday and to give them the warmth and time that I might not normally dedicate to them. I’m aiming to find at least one good first or second hand story from someone I meet in person each day. My second goal is to provide those I encounter with a story they’d like to tell again. Next time I talk to my sister, I want us to have so many great stories of our own that 30 Rock wouldn’t ever fit in to the conversation. I want us to be excited by all the twists and turns in our lives’ plot lines.