Friday nights used to be special. So special, in fact, that we were compelled to thank God for sending us such a glorious day as Friday. And while the weekend meant no school for me and no work for all the adults with miserable jobs, Friday held a special place in our hearts for a different reason back then; an unrivaled television line-up. This was back when you could watch TV with the family without being so embarrassed about old naked men in bathtubs talking about how their man parts don’t work anymore. “The golden age”, as I call it.
TGIF was like my 3rd parent. I learned countless life lessons from all the attitude problems DJ kept displaying on ‘Full House’, and useful non-verbal communication skills from Uncle Joey. I took several wardrobe cues from ‘Hanging with Mr. Cooper’, many of which I still put into practice today. ‘Boy Meets World’ taught me that you shouldn’t live so close to your school Principal, and that some break-ups are more than two pint break-ups for girls named Topanga. From ‘Step by Step’ I learned that if my nephew with all the exciting catchphrases asks to move in with me, I should probably make him sleep in a van parked in the driveway. And then there was ‘Family Matters’, my favorite.
Honestly, I don’t know where to begin. From Waldo Faldo’s surprising cooking skills to Carl Winslow’s underlying fear of his mother, the character development was flawless. They were like my extended family. Where some saw just an above average sitcom, all I could see was a tower of dreams, and real love bursting out of every seam.
As I began to grow older with the characters over nine glorious seasons, I found myself becoming envious of them. I wished I had Eddie’s confidence. Every time my phone rang I contemplated answering with, “talk to me”, but always reverted back to my usual “hello”. I wished I could have a haircut like Waldo, be able to legally carry a gun in a holster like Carl, and be popular like Laura. I was even envious of Estelle because she was retired and didn’t have any responsibilities. Although she was like 83, which has its own list of cons. Regardless, I wanted all of their sitcom lives.
And then there was Steve. Steve was the one character I wasn’t envious of. Sure, he was smart enough to build a jet pack, but he was also remarkably dumb enough to try it out in Carl’s living room. Steve was a nerd, and he made me feel good about my life. That is, until one day when everything changed; when he changed. Into Stefan Urquelle.
Unbeknownst to viewers like me, for 4 seasons Steve had been working on a little project in his basement. The “transformation chamber”. You see, Steve realized that the only way he could be accepted and win Laura’s heart was to transform into someone else. So he concocted a little potion known as “cool juice”; a mixture capable of suppressing his nerd genes and high-lighting his Jaleel White without glasses swag. He poured the cool juice into the transformation chamber, stepped inside, and within a matter of seconds he became a new person. The person he’d always wanted to be. The cool guy.
Suddenly I was envious of Steve, the one character who at one time made me feel better about my life. He was cool now. As Stefan Urquelle, he could do anything. He strutted around with his white suit and mock turtlenecks, jotting down girls’ numbers (gettin’ digits, as the kids say) and making friends with athletes. He now had Eddie’s confidence, a better haircut than Waldo, was more popular than Laura, and no one would have said anything if he wanted to wear a gun in a holster. And as envious as I was of his new-found swag, I was more envious of the creation in his basement. He had mastered what I had been trying to figure out for my entire life – how to become someone else.
I think if we’re being honest, we’re all a little envious of Steve’s beautiful creation in the basement. Because that’s what we’ve been trying to figure out our entire lives, what we’ve been working so hard to do – become someone else. Sometimes I wonder what makes us so concerned with being the cool guy and projecting these images that we want other people to see and think about us. And I think it has a lot to do with acceptance.
I’ve been reading this book called “The Gift of Being Yourself”. It’s a terrific little book that I believe everyone should read. However, I must warn you that it may have the ugliest cover of any book ever printed. It’s like if the hall bathroom at your Grandmother’s house birthed a book cover. The book argues that we all live out of two selves: a true self and a false self. The true self is who we really are behind all the faking and hiding, who we were truly created to be. The false self is sort of an imposter. It’s a self that most of us live out of, often without even realizing it. The false self is most concerned about what other people think, projecting images for ourselves, and constantly trying to transform into a guy named Stefan. When we live life out of our false selves, we’re constantly climbing down the basement stairs looking for the transformation chamber.
It’s an exhausting way to live, really, always wishing and trying to be someone else. We’re forced to keep up with lies and act like we’ve heard of bands that we’ve actually never heard of. We’ll do anything to cover our tracks and keep up the image that we want everyone to see – our Jaleel White with no glasses swag.
So why do we do it? Why do we live this way when it’s so frustrating and exhausting? Because we want to be accepted. We want Laura to like us and Carl to respect us. We want to be cool and popular and wear white suits with mock turtlenecks. But what I’ve found is, all this changing and faking and hiding just leaves us more frustrated and more exhausted. The acceptance and significance we’re craving isn’t quenched, our need for it is only intensified. So we keep climbing the basement stairs.
But maybe there’s a better way to live. There has to be. What if we could find acceptance just the way we are; with our glasses and suspenders and jetpacks that we use in the living room? What if we didn’t have to try so hard? What if we could just relax in who we are and live out of our true selves? Well, I believe we can.
You see, when we’re living out of our false selves, we find our acceptance and significance from three things: what we have, what we do, and what other people think about us. But when we’re living out of who we were created to be, we find our significance and our acceptance in our creator – who’s already deemed us worthy, just the way we are. Want to live a better life? Just relax in that. The creator of the universe says we’re worthy and significant now, and that’s the only kind of acceptance that can quench our discontent. Those are the only words that can call us out of the basement.