Mon­ica Heisey dis­cov­ers that #in­spo isn’t about hang­ing in there, baby!

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THE GIG This Toron­to­nian has the ELLE Canada of­fice in stitches with her new hu­mour col­umn. OPA! “I was re­cently on a ro­man­tic trip to Greece with my hus­band, watch­ing the sun­set and stroking what I pre­sumed was his arm. It turned out to be the hairy Greek man be­side me. Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal cus­tom, he is now my hus­band. Stavros is a gen­tle lover.”

I’ve never re­ally bought the “Hang in there” cat.

You know what I’m talk­ing about, right? A tiny kit­ten sus­pended from a tree branch with noth­ing to save it but its tiny kit­ten paws. The im­age is sup­posed to be in­spi­ra­tional and is most com­monly seen on posters—the kind hung in den­tists’ of­fices and your worst co-worker’s cu­bi­cle, next to a car­toon about cof­fee and a meme printed off the In­ter­net about how ev­ery­one hates Mon­days.

Let’s face it: That kit­ten is doomed. He’s faced with cer­tain death—pre­sum­ably a ring of fire­fight­ers hold­ing a kit­ten-soft safety blan­ket and gen­tly but firmly en­cour­ag­ing the lit­tle guy to jump to safety is not just out of frame—so the words “Hang in there” are a pretty limp of­fer­ing. Best-case scen­ario, the poster is a dark, ex­is­ten­tial joke: Hang on for as long as you can, but even­tu­ally the kit­ten gets it and so do you.

This is the prob­lem I have with most in­spi­ra­tional quotes and say­ings: They fail to in­spire any­thing in me but quiet rage. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” says a poster in the gym change room. Ba­sic math will tell you that this is not the case! “Shoot for the moon! Even if you miss, you will land among the stars” a mug once told me. No of­fence, mug, but “land­ing among the stars” would re­al­is­ti­cally in­volve float­ing for­ever into a ter­ri­fy­ing black­ness, like San­dra Bul­lock in Grav­ity if Cloonz had never found her. A re­cent In­ter­net search for “in­spi­ra­tional quotes” un­cov­ered this per­plex­ing bon mot: “Know­ing trees, I un­der­stand the mean­ing of pa­tience.” Ooookay. It’s very “Do you ever feel like a plas­tic bag?” And, no, Katy Perry, I do not.

It’s not that I don’t want to be in­spired. I am a per­son who has quite lit­er­ally wept at the sight of a very beau­ti­ful sun­set. I’ve been known to get into a chill mantra dur­ing yoga. I’ve flirted with the idea of a “vi­sion board.” I just don’t know what I’d put on it, be­cause so far no one has made a poster that says “If you do this thing you hate right now, you can have that food you like later.” Where is the T-shirt that reads “Suc­cess is 10% per­spi­ra­tion, 10% cof­fee, 11.5% an­swer­ing your mother’s phone calls.... To be hon­est, it is a very com­plex equa­tion and we’d be do­ing a dis­ser­vice to the ef­fort in­volved by re­duc­ing it to a pithy over­sim­pli­fi­ca­tion”? The day I find a framed im­age of a woman open­ing the door to a party ac­com­pa­nied by the words “You don’t owe any­one bad small talk,” I prom­ise I will buy that im­age. But for now, I’m stuck.

The most in­spi­ra­tion I’ve ever found has ar­rived not in il­lus­trated plat­i­tudes or made-you-think memes but the gar­bled, barely sen­si­cal ram­blings of group texts or late nights with friends. My lit­tle sis­ter once texted me “SIS­TERS ARE THE BEST!!!!111” at 4 a.m. on a Tues­day, and she was right, and I was in­spired to be a bet­ter sib­ling. A friend re­cently con­fessed that she had, straight­faced, told her boyfriend “Just let me be a freak for you” and I was in­spired to be my full lu­natic self, in and out of the bed­room. My dad of­ten eats spaghetti straight out of a large salad bowl, and I’m in­spired to like­wise stick it to veg­eta­bles and car­bload be­cause kale is not the boss of me.

Look, if you have ever felt like a plas­tic bag, drift­ing through the wind, want­ing to start again, that’s your busi­ness and not mine. I won’t judge where you get your in­spi­ra­tion, fitspiration or any­thing else. But if, like me, you’re find­ing the avail­able op­tions a lit­tle te­dious, there’s a way to avoid cliché: Re­al­ize that true in­spi­ra­tion has been in­side you all along.

...Shit. n

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