Part of what I like so much about theme parks is that you spend the whole day succeeding. Oh, Optimus Prime needs your help getting the AllSpark? No problem. Spider-Man needs your help taking down the Sinister Six? Nailed it! Doctor Doom needs your help harvesting screams to power Latveria? ON IT, DOOM.
(For real. At no point on Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall does the Fantastic Four show up to foil Doom’s plan.)
I really struggle with feeling like I’m doing “enough.” Last month was one of those months. I wasn’t in a show, I didn’t have any deadlines to meet, I didn’t really have any reason at all to be seen. I have a hard time feeling like my life counts if it isn’t happening in front of an audience of some kind. Like, I wrote last month, sure, but nobody was asking me to. When I’m just writing for myself, it’s pretty easy to convince myself that what I’m writing is absolutely garbage.
So, last month I mostly watched Brooklyn Nine-Nine and took a lot of bored-sad naps. I went to work and got my shit done, but the stakes all felt very low. Not at all like at a theme park. No, at a theme park, you are on a MISSION. Then you’re in an hour long line. And then you are ON A MISSION. And then you get a funnel cake. And then YOU ARE ON A MISSION.
It’s my ideal way to live.
I spend a lot of my time thinking about theme park rides and a lot of my time thinking about mental health, so, through math, you can probably conclude that I spend almost all of my time thinking about The E.T. Adventure at Universal Studios Florida. The E.T. Adventure is the most perfect, Hufflepuff-friendly attraction out there, and that includes everything at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Stay with me.
If you’ve never had the privilege and pleasure of experiencing The E.T Adventure (or you just want to re-capture some of the happiness from your desk), here is the following ride along video, courtesy of the YouTube channel TheCoasterViews.
Okay? You’re back?
I’m hooked from the moment Spielberg steps out from behind that tree. How can you not? “E.T needs your help.” I WILL DIE BEFORE I FAIL YOU, STEVEN.
On The E.T. Adventure, you get to save the day in—again, stay with me—a realistic way. I don’t know about you, but I am actually highly unqualified to assist Optimus Prime with the AllSpark. But I know how to ride a bike, and I like to help. If E.T. really needed me, I think I could do it. And, yeah, I’m a weirdo, but that idea really means a lot to me when I’m feeling down. I might not be extraordinary, but I’m still capable of “succeeding.”
Within the mental health discourse I’ve experienced, there’s a lot to be said for finding triumph in whatever victories you can. You got out of bed? Great. You took a shower? Excellent. You ate a bagel? Atta girl! I’m not there yet. I still hate myself when I don’t “do enough” on any given day. But I’m trying to learn from my love of The E.T. Adventure. There’s such a simple exchange of help and gratitude in that ride. E.T. needs your help, and, in return, he thanks you by name.
(And, yes, of course I cry every time.)
Well, E.T. might not know it, but I always need his help too. I need help in remembering that “success” can be as simple as helping out a friend in need. That wanting to do good and achieving it by whatever small means you can is enough. I didn’t save the world today, but I fed some fish. I’m going to teach some kids about Shakespeare later. That’s probably plenty.
To take a slight detour: September is Suicide Prevention Month. This is just to say: I’m so glad you’re here. On a personal note, that you are reading this blog post means the absolute world to me. I hope you know what a difference you make just by existing. If you ever start feeling low, I hope that you will reach out and get the help that you need, and that you can do so without any shame or guilt. You deserve to feel better.
You are enough.
E.T. needs you. He’ll be right here.