Jan 28 2014

Parking Garages and Golden Tickets

validation optional

validation optional

The parking garage.

You pull up, push the button and take a ticket. Once a parking space has been secured, you leave your vehicle, ticket in hand, to do what you left home to do. Doctor’s appointment. Shopping. Lunch with friends.

Your business concludes and upon leaving the parking garage, you show the attendant the ticket and if you’re lucky, it’s been punched. Validated.

The attendant, literally a gate keeper,  looks at the stamp, doesn’t look at you, and nods you through.

You are exempt from having to pay for your parking space. Your activity met the requirement. You’ve been validated. It was time well spent.

Validation.

If only it were that easy to find on a personal level. And yet, we search for exactly that. At the end of the day, we review the activities and accomplishments. We present them to the gate-keeper in our mind for the verdict. Can I validate my existence today based on the list of to-do’s I checked off?

We have been watching American Idol as a family. Nothing says bonding like watching the mechanized wheels of celebrity propel or run over America’s young people. But I was struck the other day with the connection between American Idol and our quest for validation. Those who brandish the numbers on their clothing like marathon runners are gutsy. They step onto the small stage, sing their guts out (metaphorically, we haven’t started The Hunger Games yet) and wait for a nod. A golden ticket. Validation.

Please tell me I’m doing a good job.

As a country and even a world, with similar shows sprouting up everywhere (Korea’s Got Talent, Australia’s Got Talent…), it’s obvious that we all seek validation in some way or another. Human beings desire to hear words of encouragement and affirmation. We long for our efforts to be substantiated, to have meaning and purpose. To be validated.

Recently, I pulled out a paper I wrote in college. The professor  made kind and validating remarks. The words were nice to read, but the impact of validation given so many years ago has faded, just as the ink on the page has begun to fade.

The laurels of accomplishment brown and grow brittle over the passage of time.

We seek that which doesn’t last. Several contestants from American Idol made it through last season only to be eliminated. The golden ticket of accomplishment faded. And so they are back. Seeking it again.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting they should just let it go. Validation is often the fuel that propels our dreams and pushes us to work harder. It isn’t evil. But, I wonder…do we seek validation for our accomplishments because we believe those are the things that define us? Does the validation become the vehicle instead of the fuel?

One of the contestants made a statement before stepping out in front of the judges.

“I’ll either be a successful musician, or a struggling one.”

Her thirty-second performance could alter the direction and course of her career, but it would not define her. She has learned to tap into a different kind of validation. She already has a golden ticket and it says she matters because of who she is, not what she can accomplish.

Are you waiting for a golden ticket? 

Maybe you already have one.