How to Matter

Todd Brison

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Right now, one of the more popular shows on streaming television is a show called “Schitt’s Creek.” There is the premise, which is funny. There is an ensemble cast, which is well-designed and ripe with tension. There is the dialog, which is quippy and fun.

And then, there is Catharine O’Hara.

Catharine O’Hara plays Moira Rose, a once-legendary soap opera actress who has long extended her prime. I don’t know what the show’s creator imagined when he wrote Moira, but he could not have possibly hoped for the kind of performance he’s getting.

O’Hara is better than good. She’s outstanding. She invented an accent for this role that wavers between British and American and Australian and some form of staccato alien language.

When anything goes wrong in an episode (like a wig getting lost), O’Hara reacts with a level of drama normally reserved for national tragedies. She can say more with a look than many actors can with a whole page of dialog.

If you’ve watched the show for any amount of time, you’re probably laughing the moment she comes on screen.

Without Catharine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek is good.

With her, it’s unforgettable.

A week ago I brought in my Spiderman coffee cup to Starbucks for a refill. The cashier, Adriane, nearly lost her mind with excitement over the design. She showed the cup to her co-worker Sarah. We chatted for a few minutes about the Spiderman movies.

Which Spiderman is the best? (Toby Maguire).

Did you know the animated movie won an Academy Award? (Yes).

Did you read the comics? (My dad collected them).

A minute later, Adriane filled my cup. She and Sarah waved goodbye. Although I’d been plenty happy before, my mood was now positively chipper.

I thought: “I really like Starbucks.”

Immediately after that thought came another: “Did a single teenager just affect my opinion of an entire corporation?”

Moira Rose gets a chance to act again in the 5th season of Schitt’s Creek.

She is recruited for a B movie called “The Crowening.” Think Sharknado, but with birds.

The entire cast and crew know what the point of this production is: make a silly film as quickly as possible, and then collect a check. The director is insulted to be involved in the project. He wants to finish and go home.

Moira doesn’t feel the same way. She is pouring out 20 years of pent-up acting fervor. One day, Moira asks the director why he isn’t giving more attention to the opportunity:

“Director: I would hardly call this an opportunity!”
Moira: I-I worked in soaps. They had me play my own father, who then became pregnant despite the vasectomy. I still hold the record for the longest-running demonic possession on daytime television.
Director: Okay, what’s your point?
Moira: We were number one.
*Pause*
Moira: Every project has potential.”

So, to deliver on the promise of this post: How do you matter in life?

Here is the answer.

Each day, ask: “How can I make life better for everyone around me?”

You won’t find meaning with an arbitrary follower count. You won’t find it in a mystical, perfect career. You will find it in small, ordinary moments hidden in the coworker who needs your full attention or the barista who could use a smile.

Care for those moments. Care for those people.

That’s how you matter.

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