August 30 – Not Everyone Should be a Life Coach

So I’m currently at some low-level television network right now, doing a bit of production work for them. I’m not gonna name the television network, due to the fact that I’m still employed there, but it’s not a big network anyway. I doubt you’ve heard of it. To be completely honest I’ve still yet to watch a single program that I’ve helped record, and  I’m not even sure I have the channel. Still we’ve aired a diverse range of shit on there. From psuedo-news anchors and talk show hosts, to vegan cooking shows, all the way down to fucking tarot card readings. If you conjure up a pitch to take up air time, no matter how stupid, we’ll probably end up going along with it. Still a job is a job, and this job at least offers me a foot in the door to an industry which my degree has no bearing in whatsoever…don’t I wish I majored in the Liberal Arts right about now.

Among the many unintentional farces we’ve aired as excuses for quality TV, there is none more despicable than those self-proclaimed “life coaches”. It’s basically like watching one of those annoying Tai Lopez Youtube ads, but on an enlarged TV screen, spewing open-ended horseshit advice on a topic they clearly know nothing about: life.

Let me regale you with a tale of one of the most cringworthy life coach segments we’ve filmed during my tenure here. One day my executive producer approached the rest of our production crew, being myself, Angie and our cameraman Los, and told us that the daughter of a very well known fashion designer was coming in later that day to film a segment. Now I’m not gonna name said fashion designer, but being someone who isn’t necessarily up to date with today’s current apparel trends, I could still assure you that  you’ve been accustomed to their name from a young age. Our producer ended the memo mentioning, “She’s a natural.”

A couple hours later, in walks a this high strung lady in her 50’s draped across her well-groomed and well-worked, husband’s arm, while his other arm was swathed in an assortment of various Lilly Pulitzer dresses for his dearly beloved. From her shaky composure to her apprehensive and poorly timed fits of nervous laughter, I could tell right off the bat that she was probably one of those classic cases of trust-fund-baby-turned-bored-and-benzodiazapine-addicted-housewife, that went on to create this self-help program as way to bring her fulfillment to her otherwise pretty useless life. Or two battle her insecurities. But who am I to judge? Still, intuition tells my judgement here was pretty just.

She filmed four segments for us that day, hence the multiple dresses accompanying her, as she went back to the changing room between each shoot, to give off the charade that these installments were consistently shot. She forgot her flash drive for the teleprompter, but “Don’t worry” she assured, apparently she’d been rehearsing these skits for some time now and she’s memorized the litany of talking points she wanted to bring up. Her first segment went something along the lines of this (Note. I have changed her name for obvious reasons):

“Hello, and welcome to your monthly segment Life Lessons with Barbara, I’m your host Barbara. Now I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately (as she pretends to read a bunch of empty flashcards, passing them off as engaged viewers), and people always write to me ‘Wow Barb, it seems like you have everything going for you. You really have your life put together!’ And I’ll be the first to tell you that things don’t always go perfectly for myself either. I want to share a story with you all here today, a story about a hard time for me, which is difficult to speak about, but I will tell you in hopes that it offers you encouragement. So not too long ago MY HUSBAND had lost his job, and this just took a devastating toll on everyone, myself included. Later that night, my husband asked me ‘Barb, what about our 25 year anniversary trip to Punta Cana? We can’t go on that now. We have 5 kids, 2 we need to put through to college this year.’ and I told him ‘No Paul, we have to go on that trip. Look at yourself, you can’t go into a job interview as tensed up as you are now. You need some rest and relaxation.’ and lo’ and behold, while we were sitting on the beach drinking pina coladas, Paul was getting messages with job offers falling on his lap. He went from being unnoticed and unappreciated at his last job, to an entirely different firm. All because I collected enough courage to compose myself to tell him, ‘Look, get yourself together and stop stressing’, and look how well that all ended up turning out. Well this is Barbara signing off, tune in next month with your motivational segment of Life Lessons with Barbara.”

To her credit, she did speak a lot more eloquently than I would’ve expected from her jitteriness, but holy shit that was some terrible life advice: 1. Her overcoming ‘hard times’ didn’t even apply to her as it did more so as it applied to her husband 2. Taking a vacation would be the last bit of advice I’d tell someone, right after losing their job and having to financially support their kid’s tuition. It was like hearing an account from a 1800’s upper echelon Victorian era housewife, straight out of a Jane Austen novel.

“This show is dangerous.” I thought to myself. I might’ve even said it outloud. I don’t know. All I did know was that the general public should not be taking in this in. My producer stepped out of her office at the conclusion of this first recording, asking Barbara the title for this specific segment, so our editing guy could get some context. Barbara froze. Apparently she didn’t think to add corresponding titles to her disjointed ramblings. As she stood there for about half a minute trying to think of something, until I finally halfheatedly interjected with “How about Overcoming Adversity?“…”I like that”, she replied.

The next segment was about college, and pursuing the right major for you, regardless of money and the mounting pressure from the job market. And although I do viscerally agree with the overall message of her segment (being an Indian student destined for medical school, I spent almost the entirety of my undergrad pursuing a career I hated until I finally concluded that no amount financial security was worth it), but she sure as hell made it sound overly gung ho. I turned and saw Angie next to me, trying her hardest to hold in her laughter and disdainful mockery of it all. Now Angie, a young mother of two in her 20’s, attending community classes herself, understands the importance of an education, especially as a means to provide, but even she could see the fallacies laid out with Barbara’s logic. Following your dreams isn’t easy. More often than not your filled with incessant self-doubt and regret about not sticking with the prior alternative. An alternative that at least ensured you getting an actual job, capable of paying the rent.

Wanting to push the envelope a bit, as I was a bit bored and our executive producer wasn’t present, I nudged over to Angie and whispered “Yeah. I bet that anthropology degree from FSU has been treating you real well.” At this, Angie broke and couldn’t take it anymore. She looked as if she was going to pop a blood vessel from holding in all the hysteria. Quickly bolting off set, as to not disrupt production, she ran off into the restroom to let loose all the pent up laughter from all the absurdity she’d just witnessed. She had zoomed right passed Los, who at this point into the recording, was simply resting his camera on the tripod while he watched World Cup highlights on his phone. It was clear that no one in the room really took this seriously.

By the third and fourth recordings, I was clearly tuned out. Seeing that she had no need for a teleprompter, my only job was to watch the clock to make sure she didn’t go over her allotted time. Simple enough, but the clock could not go any slower at this point. Making fun of idiots trying to be wise is fun to an extent, but after a while it just becomes depressing. Finally her last recording came to an end, and once again our producer emerged from her office to once again ask for the segment title. At this point, sensing Barbara’s inability for on-the-spot thinking, I blurted out with a sarcastically redundant “What about Inspirational Words for Motivation?”, and with the same enthusiasm before, she replied “I like it. Wow, you’re really good at this title thing.”

I had to give myself a mental facepalm, due to the fact I paid no attention to what her last “life lesson” was about, and had made this suggestion clearly and contemptuously, as a remark off blatant pandering. But hey, I guess all life lessons (and life coaches) are one in the same. Dumb.

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