It’s been just over a year since the last episode of Party Down aired. If you’re anything like me, this makes you sad. But we should learn to cherish the time we had with these realistic and down-trodden caterers, for the lessons they handed down to us were nothing short of profound.
Henry Pollard, vicodin-zombie with a smile to die for, came into our lives at the perfect time. 2009 was a rough year for nearly everyone. The ‘American dream’, or whatever was left of it, was evaporating quickly, rising above debt ceilings and dissipating over foreclosed homes all across the country. We were facing our own failure. College graduates had catering jobs. If they were lucky enough to even have a job.
Through two short lived seasons we got to know how Henry Pollard operated. He had accepted his lot in life whereas the rest of his peers held on like grim death, clutching to the hope that things would get better. In these modern times, where opportunity is minimal and fleeting, where the typical young creative believes that failure is absolutely not an option, it is easy to forget that mistakes are part of the process. Our failures make us who we are just as much as our successes. And Henry had completely accepted his ultimate failure. Is this depressing? Of course. But not as largely so as you’d think. Because there is life outside of your accomplishments and outside of your career.
Ron: You can be two things in life: you can be an achiever or you can be a f**k-up.
Henry: And which one are you being right now?
Ron: I’m an achiever!
Henry: Well, then, I’m definitely a f**k up. I gotta say, standing here watching you light a flag on fire in a parking lot…I feel kinda OK about it.
Henry also altered the scale of success. It used to be, at least for myself, that a good barometer of ‘making it’ as an adult was owning a home and having a family. And that generally happened, in my mind, in my mid to late twenties. That family, that home and that job would all be stepping stones to some ultimate prize. But there is no final boss in this world and at the end of the day what does any of that matter if you’re not happy? If you find love and friendship and camaraderie working a demeaning job isn’t that pretty great? You get to turn off your day job when the shift ends. Success isn’t black and white. In a present that limits what we individually have control over you can take solace in the fact that you get to decide, for you, what success is. You don’t have to, and shouldn’t, let someone else do it for you.
Henry was so calm and cool because he had let go of worrying. I’m not saying Pollard had it all figured out, because he still struggled and so will I and so will you. But he did teach us to relax a bit more and to understand that failing doesn’t make you a failure. Henry saw that every snowflake is the same. None of us deserve to ‘make it’ and none of us are owed anything, as much as it might feel that way sometimes. And when you’re aware of that fact than anything can happen. Any good thing can happen now because you’re not limiting your possibilities by cutting out of your life anything that clashes with your ‘plan’ or that roadblocks your ‘path to success’.
So be more like Henry. Take the edge off every now and then and remind yourself that you are a small, small, small existence in this expanding universe. Everything is going to be just fine because nothing matters. I mean, everything matters, sure, but nothing matters, too. You know? Does that make sense? Thanks Henry.