“I encounter people when I walk on the street now who give me sort of a sad look. I have had more fortune than anybody I know. And if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-Eleven Parking lot we will find a way to make it fine. We really will. I have no problems. And, I don’t want to do it on a 7-Eleven parking lot. (Audience laughs) But whatever, uh… And all I ask is one thing…and this is…I’m asking this particularly of young people that watch…please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality. It doesn’t lead anywhere. 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’m telling you. Amazing things will happen.”
– Conan O’Brien (from his goodbye speech on the Tonight Show)
I feel for Conan. Although I am extremely impressed with Conan’s words and thoughts, there is no doubt in my mind how hard this must be for him: to have reached his dream only to have it ripped from him so rapidly. How different the world must look. The color, fascination, and excitement that comes with living a dream quickly transforms into dull tones of grey. No matter how easy it must be to say cynicism is the enemy, it’s never quite so easy the next day. I’m sure Conan will never be labeled a cynic but no doubt the next couple weeks cynicism will feel much like a best friend to ‘ole CoCo. All of that being said Conan’s goodbye has me thinking more about my own goodbyes, about my own tendencies toward cynicism, my own inability to walk away from my dreams.
I’m reminded of my cousin’s kid, Ethan, on his birthday this last year. He immediately became infatuated with one of his gifts, a toy vaccum cleaner. He really went at it, he vacuumed every inch of that room, probably 3 or 4 times and still there was no sign that he was ever going to quit. The time had come to show him and his twin sister their big playhouse, that no doubt took hours for my cousin to put together and here Ethan is still vacuuming the living room. So here comes Mom, she picks up little Ethan who almost instantly begins violently kicking and screaming, it was obvious he did not want to be pulled away from that vacuum cleaner. He didn’t care where he was going or what was going to come next, he wanted to cry and scream, to grieve and lament that former moment in the living room with the vacuum cleaner.
I can’t help but question where, on a scale between Conan’s reaction and Ethan’s, my reactions fall. Maybe if I were more of a seasoned writer, like Conan I would have said the right thing and let the dream go, like a mature adult should but if I’m going to be honest here Id’ have to admit I relate much more to Ethan and his story and reaction. I, too, like Conan, have become to hate cynicism but sometimes I wonder if its not as inevitable as cracks in a sidewalk. Life hurts, time often takes away more than it gives. I’m only 26 years old, I have many more goodbye ahead of me in this life maybe someday I’ll be able to handle it as graciously as Conan, with what C.S Lewis called “excellent absurdity“.
“But to thank God for the “excellent absurdity” which enables us to play great parts without pride and little ones without dejection, rejecting nothing through false modesty which is only another form of pride, and never when we occupy for a moment the centre of the stage, forgetting that the play would have gone off just as well without us…” – C.S. Lewis