Your Life Is Not a Sitcom Script

Any fans of The Office out there? I’m speaking specifically of the American version, here. Apparently the answer is a big ol’ heck yes for a goodly number of you, considering this iconic sitcom has a bigger viewership now in the era of streaming than it did when it was a legit hit on the air.

I started rewatching The Office when I got my sauna blanket maybe a year and a half ago or so.

By the way…
Ever heard of a sauna blanket? It’s basically a vinyl sleeping bag heated with infrared tubing. You suit up in sweatshirt, sweatpants and socks, get in that heated cocoon and sweat it all out for 30 minutes or so. I like to be unconventional, so I always set my timer for 36 minutes—to be exact.

While it may seem that time in a sauna blanket would be perfectly accompanied by zen music, a mindful podcast or quiet meditation, I choose a very different route. I turn on The Office when I’m sauna blanketing. For me, there’s nothing like a familiar, funny sitcom when I just want to let my mind unwind. It’s like being read a favorite storybook; I know what’s going to happen but it still entertains.

I use my sauna blanket often—very faithfully—several times a week. That means I watch my fair share of The Office. Yes, it’s funny…and sometimes cringy…and funny…and did I mention cringy? Regardless the comedic devices and moments in which we viewers have to suspend belief for a plot line, the core of the show and, I contend, its lasting appeal lies in the way it captures real life: human nature with all its flaws, the quirks of interpersonal relationships, the daily grind of boring jobs, romances that’re toxic or stale or unrequited, the struggle to speak up for oneself—and the low-grade ache that accompanies goals and dreams that are unfulfilled because they’re never pursued.

Several months ago (at the time of this writing/recording), I exited a successful business I built and led for 13+ years. I did so because I was ready for new and different. I didn’t move on to get away from where I was; I moved on to go toward my next ventures and adventures. Where I’d been was good, but I discovered new things that interest and spark me so much that I want be part of bringing them into the world.

I’d quietly been percolating on this bold move for some time and, thanks to decisions, actions, and divine interventions, I was able to go for it. Some of that percolating came as I was perspiring in my sauna blanket, watching a relatable, familiar set of characters often fail to swing, strategize, speak out, and self-advocate. Examples that come to mind…

Jim getting hurt when Pam suggests he apply for the Baltimore job because he doesn’t want to leave her behind…when he could’ve gone for the way better opportunity and damn-the-torpedoes told her how he felt and asked her to come along

Pam spouting excuses for not doing the graphic design training at corporate, then giving it consideration only to cave when her fiancé throws a wet blanket on the idea… By the end of that episode, she snaps that she’s fine with her choices when Jim asks if she wants to be a receptionist forever and cries as she says that her dream of a house with a terrace is impractical and that they don’t have houses like that in Scranton

Stanley and Toby being genuinely excited when they thought their branch was closing. ……Stanley was going to take the severance, retire and travel, Toby had plans to move to Costa Rica…… Yet both settle right back into the routine when it’s announced their location will remain open.

Watching the characters in these episodes—observing people in real life—reflecting on my own situation… What are we doing? Why don’t we speak up? How’d we get so scared? Why are we settling? Who made up the work-a-day life anyway—and why are we playing along like there aren’t options? How much more time will we burn living unexamined lives on autopilot, saying that the circumstances we never have the courage to change are our fates?

I know you have bills. Maybe you have kids to care for and educate. Of course you need food, clothing and shelter. Still, it’s completely your choice whether or not to buy into the existing narrative. There were writers who crafted scripts that prescribed the words and actions of the fictional characters of The Office.

Stay in that job, don’t make the move, keep going in that lackluster relationship—but don’t claim it’s your fate. Even if culture or a belief system or your family tries to hand you their script for your one precious life, you have every right to decline. Your days don’t have to play like reruns on a streaming service.

You’re the writer, the producer, the director, the show runner—THE STAR. It’s all up to you.

Plan your plot twists and exit strategies and go for it already.

It’s time to design a life that sparks you!

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