Sometimes I feel like movies are a metaphor of my life. I have learned so many lessons through flicks; many times the lessons are evident, other times the messages are hidden within the narrative. One of my favorite TV shows growing up was “the Wonder Years” where the main character named Kevin would relate his life through his favorite movies and shows. Some will see the irony of me channeling Kevin and using “the Wonder Years” as an allegory of my own life for that was the premise of that show. I am sure though that I’m not the only one who does this; all of us distill life’s ups and downs by using movies as analogies of our lives.
This afternoon, while talking with a few co-workers about life, this dude proceeds to tell me about the horrendous night he had the previous evening and how he made a fool of himself. But he did one thing that made me nod my head in approval; instead of hiding in shame and letting regret be his status, he decided to own the whole story and made light of his failings. Perfect! This man is going to be OK in life I thought to myself for there are no mistakes if we: A) learn from them and B) don’t let the mistakes own us.
I used to say all the time “own news before news owns you”. I said this as a throw away line not too long ago, but the past two years of deep self-reflection and inspections of my life have led me to this one revelation. Guilt and shame are the building blocks of anxiety and depression. The growing pains we go through in life serve to make us better people as long as we see the oversights that we make as a process of continual improvement.
Companies like Google and Apple became successful based on this very notion of continuous improvement. Whether this process is called lean six sigma or Kaizen method is irrelevant, what matters is the concept of launching a product they know to be flawed and then go about continuously modifying the product and bettering it over time. They don’t wait for the perfect product before they launch, they launch an imperfect product and then perfect it over time. This is life in a nutshell; the mistakes and missteps that we make are nothing but us perfecting ourselves as we go.
There are no mistakes in life. This is a mantra I had to repeat on loop back until it sunk in, I finally understood that my past lapses were nothing more than a means for me to enhance my knowledge and in time apply the lessons that I learned from what I once thought were failures. But this world being what it is, our past will be dug up and used against us as cudgels and baseball bats. In the age of social media and Google, a mistake we made in a flash becomes a permanent record that can be pulled up with a few strokes of and some clicks. Bones no longer exist in a closet; our secrets and past lives are made evident by even the most amateur detective (read nosy coworker or neighbor).
In this age of instant information, all of us are reduced to anxieties and worried that past errors in judgement can come back to haunt us. The news is full of one politician after another getting exposed for lewd behavior and this practice has trickled down to people who are not public figures. Lest anyone think this is good, the same way that a teacher gets fired for posting a rant about her boss could be the way you get the ax for posting a status about politics or social trends. We have become a society of a circular firing squad; everyone has an itchy trigger finger aimed at someone else even as we have a nuzzle pointed at our own temples.
The way out of this jam is to do precisely what Rabbit did on 8 Mile and, in a way, what my co-worker did as he told me about his most embarrassing evening. Do not wait for the news to break; you break the news first and in the process own the narrative. The mistake public figures make all the time is letting fear dictate their decisions. The public is forgiving if we sense someone is authentic; we are like piranhas in a feeding frenzy if we sense any level of deception and duplicity. Instead of waiting for the news cycle to wrap them in a cocoon of sensationalism, those who are caught up in a maelstrom should step up immediately to the mic and own up to their failings.
That is the profound aspect of the final rap battle between Rabbit (Eminem) and Papa Doc. Rabbit knew what was coming; he knew that Papa Doc was going to use his past and humiliating aspects of his life against him in the climactic freestyle duel. So Rabbit did what every public relations expert must have been gleefully endorsing, he grabbed the mic and owned every detail of his life and then pivoted to shred Papa Doc for being a fraud that he is. Rabbit took his weakness and made it his strength by humanizing his shortcomings and then turned Papa Doc’s strength into feebleness by exposing his bravado as counterfeit bullshit. Brilliant!
The takeaway from this scene and the movie as a whole is that we don’t have to let the past define us. There is no need to be ashamed of the past for the past is what led us to the wisdom that we have at this moment. Next time someone tries to diminish you by using your failures against you, do not shrink into the shadows. Puff up your chest and own the information and in the process turn a perceived weakness into strength. None among us is flawless for all of us have made many mistakes in the past. Let us look backwards always in thankfulness as a means of acknowledging how far we have come—never look back in regret or else that 8 Mile will become an indefinite road called regret. #8MileLessons
The root of our power is the very source our our perceived weakness. Fear becomes strength the minute we uncover this axiom.~ Serendipity’s Trace
If you appreciate this write up and it spoke to you and you too dig the movie 8 Mile, share this article on social media using #8MileLessons
Check out the final battle between Rabbit (Eminem) and Papa Doc, a DOPE freestyle. Eminem belongs in the top 10 of all time greatest rappers.
Check out this Ghion Cast below that talks about Candle Blowers, people who make it their point to blow at our blessings, and how to deal with those who make a profession of trying to extinguish the light of others.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.