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I was in the seventh grade when I consulted the Self-Help section of Barnes & Noble for the first time. For me, the advent of puberty brought with it increased oil-production, decreased attractiveness and an exponential surge in my use of the term, “I’ll be out in a minute!” after a knock on the bathroom door. Factor in mood swings of biblical proportions and I was on my way to a recurring role on “My So-Called Life”.
Fear of being just another clichéd, angst-ridden teenager—all in all: a pretty clichéd, angst-ridden fear—had me looking for a solution. One afternoon, during a fleeting interlude between “Nobody understands me!” and “Stop looking at me!”, I tuned into the Oprah Winfrey Show to see her peddling a little book by the name of The Secret. Ten minutes later, it had risen to the top of every best-sellers list around the globe and, at many a book club gathering, condensation-rings from glasses of Pinot Grigio were already forming on the book jacket.
It was a few days later when I found myself in the second-saddest section (I’m looking at you Science-Fiction/Fantasy) of any book store. Walking past “It’s a New Day: One-Hundred-and-Forty-Seven Simple Steps to Realizing YOU Are Worthy!” and trying my hardest to ignore “But You Always Have a Headache!: How To Spiritually Spice Up Your Sex-Life”, I presumed I had found “The Secret” based on the swarm of people surrounding a single bookshelf. Elbowing my way through a throng of tear-soaked sweaters, I snatched a copy before the presence of youth could cause a shift in the weary cynicism haunting the air.
The tenets of “The Secret” are as follows: ask, believe and receive. It emphasizes the power of positive intentions yielding positive results. You want companionship? Be a companion to others and believe that the Universe will consequently send David Beckham bending in your direction. You want a raise at work? Start spending money as if you’re making money and expect that The Powers That Be won’t have you declaring Chapter 11 by the end of the year. In short, it’s just like ordering room service: it’s going to take ten years to get to your room and won’t be nearly as good as it sounds in the menu.
Try as I might, The Secret remained just that: a $23.99 riddle that I couldn’t quite decode. I tried my hardest to use the law of attraction to my benefit but all I seemed to attract was more acne. Years passed, self-help fads came and went, but my search for spiritual fulfillment (a.k.a. “I am not my nose!”) never ceased. As with most things in life, it was only when I stopped paying any attention to The Secret that it began to work.
All last year, friends, family and complete strangers contributed to my ever-inflating ego by reading and (somehow) enjoying the op-ed pieces that I wrote for The Hub: op-eds that I ever-so-modestly referred to as “my column”. I was walking through the quad thinking I was Carrie Bradshaw when, really, I had more in common with the octogenarians who write to their local newspapers complaining about the lighting at school board meetings. It was that very delusion, however, that would eventually give me exactly what I wanted (Bradshaw’s social circle and rent-controlled apartment, sadly, not included).
During the final days of spring semester, as all my peers feverishly prepared for finals and I prepared a back-at-home grocery list to send to my mother, I got an email from my editor at The Hub. I had just finished scrawling “massive cheese wheel” when my eyes locked on a portion of the e-mail that read, “We have decided to reward you with your own official, weekly column”. A cartwheel down my residence hall and a (forced) high-five with the cleaning lady later, I replied to my editor thanking her up and down.
As my endorphins—and desire to hop-scotch—diminished, I realized that I had finally deciphered The Secret. I had openly referred to those op-eds as my column and here I am writing the premier installment of the Over the Rainbow with Brian Burns (hint-hint, I’m not just a big Judy Garland fan). So, boys and girls, if you learn anything from me, let it be this: lie your way to the top (or lay your way to the top, either one will suffice). Dream your biggest, try your hardest and, in time, you’ll reap the benefits. Sure, there will be shitty apartments and thankless jobs and boxed wine in the process but nothing comes without a little hard work and a whole lot of denial. Believe me, I read it in a self-help book.