The Wisdom of Meatballs
Updated: Mar 25, 2022
As a kid, one of my favorite movies was the comedy Meatballs starring Bill Murray. In it, Murray plays Tripper, a camp counselor at Camp North Star, a run-down camp that for twelve consecutive years has lost the camp Olympiad to their wealthy rival, Camp Mohawk.
The scene that always stuck with me is the one in which Tripper tries to rally his defeated campers by maniacally chanting, “It just doesn’t matter! It just doesn’t matter” over and over again. There was just something about that simple phrase that rang an internal bell inside of me when I first heard it. Even at twelve years old, I could feel there was a larger message hidden inside the hysterical plea to lighten up and stop taking the competition so seriously. For me, it didn’t seem like just a onetime gag, delivered with perfection by a guy who would later become a comedy legend. It seemed like the key to finding a whole new sense of freedom and joy in my life.
That simple phrase has popped into my mind countless times throughout my life; always there to make me smile, to soothe me whenever I was laboring over some seemingly overwhelming decision.
When I was trying to decide between majoring in journalism or recreation in college, I found myself saying: “Well, recreation seems like a lot more fun. And hey, it just doesn’t matter, right?”
Later, when my husband sent me to a lighting warehouse to pick out a huge number of light fixtures for the new house we were building. “I’ll take two of those six of those. No, I don’t need to see a catalog of more options. These seem good. And hey, it just doesn’t matter, right?”
When I decided I wanted to write a novel and multiple ideas were swirling in my head, leaving me wondering which one I should pick. “I’ll just go with this one. It seems the strongest and if I lose the thread of the others, well, it just doesn’t matter, right?”
Okay. I know what you’re thinking:
#1) Is taking advice from a fictional character in a raunchy ‘70’s comedy really that good an idea Kiersten?
#2) It kind of seems like you don’t give a shit about anything. You might want to seek some help for your apathy problem, young lady.
And to tell you the truth, I did worry about myself a little. Was there something wrong with me to be so laissez-faire about my decisions? Was I some kind of unfeeling psychopath or something? Everyone says this stuff’s important. Shouldn’t I make sure I’m absolutely right before I pick something? I feel like I’m supposed to be caring way more about this than I am.
But that’s just it. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about the decisions I was making. It was that I didn’t believe there was one right college major or light fixture or story to write. Deep down, I actually believed that no matter what choice I made, it would turn out to be the right one for me.
In other words, it was never about the details of the choices in front of me. It was about how I chose to feel about my choices that really mattered to me. I knew that if I made the conscious choice that whatever I picked would serve me in a positive way, it would have to turn out like that. Of course, I had no idea HOW it would do that. I just trusted that it somehow would.
For example, in the case of the light fixture, my conscious choosing sounded something like this: “That’s one hell of a sconce you got there, Kiersten. Has light ever shone quite so beautifully over a carpeted staircase before? I think not!” And voila! My choice was suddenly the most perfect one ever made. (I mean, inside my own head at least, which is the only place that really matters, right?)
For me, it goes something like this:
Pick something. Decide it’s right for me. Move on.
Don’t look back and don’t regret.
We are ever evolving creatures designed to move in only one direction: Forward. And if you’re looking back when you’re moving forward, you tend to bump into a lot of shit. (Like signposts, and pedestrians, and those stupid displays of kitchen utensils they’re always putting in the middle of the grocery store aisles.)
I’ll admit, it feels a little scary to say how much I love the phrase “It just doesn’t matter.” People usually respond to a claim like that with “well if it just doesn’t matter, what’s the point of all of this anyway?” But to me, if you’re not mired in the maddening task of trying to figure out the one perfect, most logical decision -the one that matters SO, SO MUCH, that you’ll be cast down the road to ruin if you can’t figure it out- then you open yourself up to seeing all the millions of possibilities that can inevitably become perfect if you’ll only give them a chance.
Based on their belief that we are all eternal beings, spiritual teachers Abraham-Hicks
“You never get it wrong, because you never get it done.”
That takes a helluva lot of pressure off, huh? Expands the field of possibilities wide open, too. It means it’s all good. That you get to keep trying. And if you don’t like how this particular choice turned out, then pick something different next time.
I hope that thought makes you feel so giddy you want to prance around the living room, chanting “It just doesn’t matter!” just like Bill Murray once did. Don’t forget, in the movie Meatballs, once the down-and-out campers of Camp North Star were released from the pressure of winning by Tripper’s evangelical speech, they went on to beat Camp Mohawk for the first time in twelve years. Now that’s a feel-good ending I can get behind. Mostly because that same ‘what’ve I got to lose?’ tactic has worked so many times for me.
So I invite you to try it sometime. You can start small. Next time you have to make a decision, just listen to your gut and pick something. Afterward, applaud your wise, all-knowing self. Tell yourself it was the best decision ever made by any person on the planet. Then sit back and let that invincible feeling of simply letting go and trusting yourself be the only thing that matters to you.