No matter where I turn, whom I run to, I can’t seem to escape it. What am I fleeing now? I’m trying to avoid what is rapidly becoming the bane of my verbal communication, the most annoying cliché ever.
Alas, it’s a frustrating exercise in futility. Everyone is using it: characters on TV, talking heads on TV, ladies and gentlemen on podcasts, people in my life, in my dreams, on the street. I could have sworn I kept overhearing random folks saying it as I roamed around Bangkok on Sunday afternoon, but it might have just been my mind playing a cruel trick on me as I recalled all the times I’d heard it all before.
It is what it is.
Uh oh! Now I’m doing it, too — using the cringeworthy cliche in my rant about the cringeworthy cliche.
Is it what it is?
What does that even mean? Taken literally, isn’t it pretty much stating the obvious? Of course, it is what it is. Everything is what it is. So why even bother to say it? As soon as someone utters those words to punctuate what had been a pretty decent argument (and they always do so as if it’s the most clever thing they’ve said up to that point), it undermines everything that came before it. It’s like the biggest copout ever, tantamount to saying, “I can’t be bothered to present any more compelling evidence, so let’s just forget the whole thing.”
Gladly, but it’s hard to forget when everyone keeps using it: It is what it is.
As duh as the statement might be, what an oversimplified way of looking at anything! Someone recently used it to describe his life at the moment, and all I could think was, “Damn, it must really suck to be you!” It was almost as if he was saying, “I’m so indifferent to my life right now that it isn’t even worth any meaningful analysis.”
If he doesn’t really care, I guess I shouldn’t either, but I couldn’t help but wish he’d dig deeper — if not for my entertainment, for his own edification. As any trained journalist or inquisitive, introspective human being knows, it’s never just what it is. There’s subtext and context to practically everything, always an ulterior motive (as my friend Dave used to say). In six words or less: Don’t take anything at face value. The Urban Dictionary offers 27 different takes on “It is what it is,” but only one of them (“fuck it”) doesn’t come across as a complete copout.
“Will you explain to me what ‘It is what it is’ means?” I asked my friend Rob yesterday when he casually dropped it into what was actually excellent insight into something that’s going on in my life.
“The situation at hand is pretty clear. There shouldn’t be a lot of reading into it,” Rob responded. I was surprised that he’d used two cliches to explain a cliche, but I got the point. I guess. Turn off the brain and just go with it.
Easier said than done, but for a writer like me, someone who can spend a half hour trying to decide whether to use “may” or “might,” “maybe” or “perhaps,” “toward” or “towards,” someone who obsesses over why people never use periods at the end of multi-sentence text messages, someone who can use 1,000 words to pick apart three sentences, there’s no turning off the brain, no just going with it. Believe me, baby, I’ve tried.
If I could, maybe (perhaps?) I’d be inching toward (towards?) happiness. But I’d probably be bored out of my mind, whatever was left of it. “The unexamined life is not worth living,” Socrates once said. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t buying that “It is what it is” dime-store psychobabble either. It may (might?) be cheap, but you get what you pay for.