In the arts, especially writing and comedy, the rule of three is a common formula for gold. The idea is readers and audiences prefer witty quips and creative ideas in a series of three.
There are three-ring circuses and those three kittens wearing mittens. Plus all my dad ever talks about is the Three Stooges.
Obviously there’s something to it.
At Sunday night’s Academy Awards, Best Actor Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey made reference to three types of inspirations for success in his life. Before closing with his “Dazed and Confused” callback “Alright, alright, alright,” McConaughey said he needs the following three: someone to look up to, something to look forward to and someone to chase.
I rarely catch anyone I chase.
And that’s not just because I’m a slow runner.
The “Dallas Buyers Club” star said he prefers to chase himself, 10 years in the future. “That keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing,” he said in his acceptance speech. The idea is that Matthew McConaughey will never catch himself, because he doesn’t really know exactly who he will be in 10 years.
I wonder if psychics know.
I know that 10 years ago, I couldn’t have predicted where my life was headed. At 31, I wasn’t a newspaper columnist or a comic. Sure I was a writer and I liked to make people laugh at parties. But I hadn’t put my mind to doing anything but moving out to Colorado and completely changing my life. I think it was my pre-midlife crisis.
Sort of like a practice run.
Ten years ago, I wasn’t a person who had been to a rodeo, hiked up a mountainside or carried a passport. I knew very little about what I really wanted in life. I didn’t know that scribbling down jokes right before I fall asleep at night would become a way of life. I didn’t know I would have so much regret about decisions made in the coming years.
I didn’t know how much joy I had yet to experience.
When I think about the 51-year-old me, I see a woman emotionally stronger than my current self. That’s the beauty of growing older. With age comes wisdom, as the saying goes. I also think I will have a better take on beauty in the next decade. That has nothing to do with the prospect of advancements in anti-aging procedures. I tend to believe the fountain of youth actually bubbles inside all of us. We tend to focus on what’s on the outside when being youthful. I disagree.
Just watch me at a party.
I look forward to being a feisty 51-year-old who has stepped out of her own way — advice I receive quite often these days — to reach my goals. I am well aware I’ve allowed my own fears and self-imposed criticisms to stop me from being where I want to be. I’m also cognizant that sometimes just because I want something doesn’t mean I deserve it. Success is best experienced when it’s earned.
I also realize I would’ve misspelled cognizant in a spelling bee before today.
I agree with McConaughey that chasing our 10-year-older selves can help us keep growing emotionally and spiritually as humans. Just like driving down the road or playing tennis, keeping our eyes ahead can take us far. I only need to look back if I’m reminiscing about the people in my past who made it special, like my grandparents or friends I’ve lost. Or to think about how much I’ve learned from an experience I once thought was the end of the world that’s now far behind me. Mistakes aren’t always so terrible.
They can actually change a life for the better.
Along with chasing himself, which is what my dog Jake used to do all the time, McConaughey said he always has someone to look up to in life. I concur. I’ve always looked up to my parents, who worked hard and always told me I could be anything I wanted to be so I could make it to college and be a writer. I have many comedians I’ve looked up to over the years, including Tina Fey, Betty White and Mel Brooks.
OK, maybe I’m chasing them a little, too.
Call me a dreamer, but my something to look forward to is someday hosting the Oscars like Ellen DeGeneres. Hey, it could happen. Ellen started as a stand-up comic and look at her now. She now has her own talk show, won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, and is personally responsible for the most Tweeted selfie in history.
I’m looking forward to doing all three.
— April E. Clark needs an agent. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.