Sean of the South



I was watching cable news today, they said this was the most challenging time in our national history. They said that circumstances have never been this bad. They said we’d be lucky to make it through these hard times in good enough shape to bury.

They said a lot of things.

Well, I got to thinking about “they” today. Who are “they,” anyway? “They” are everywhere. You can’t get away from “they.”

They are always talking at you. They are always making predictions. They are always telling you about things that are going to happen.

They are your invisible critics who love telling you what you can and cannot do. They are the voices that make quick judgments, and pretend to know the score. They’re everywhere, and they never shut up. You’ve heard them before.

“They say not to eat eggs…”

“They say to avoid butter.”

“They say you should sing ‘Happy Birthday’ three times while washing your hands in the sink…”

“They say, with your kind of cancer, your chances of survival are bad.”

“They say you might never get your life back after the big mistakes you made.”

“They say you’re done for.”

“Hold up. Wait a second. They’re now saying butter and eggs are good for you.”

They, they, they.

You can’t get away from them. Their voices penetrate your brain from every angle. And if you ever start to actually concentrate about what they’re saying, you’ll discover something important:

They are full of beans.

They have no idea, they don’t know you, they don’t know how you’re made, or what kind of uncharacteristic strength lies within you. In fact, they don’t know jack diddly.

They said that Gerald would never recover from the chemo treatments that nearly killed him. They also said he was going to die before age 40. Gerald is 89 today, and healthy. And I wonder what “they” would have to say about that.

They were also wrong about Rachel, whose children and grandchildren abandoned her because they said she was a “drunk old woman.” They said her family was ruined, they said Rachel would never see her grandkids again.

Today, Rachel celebrated her 19th year of sobriety, and she just attended her grandchild’s 30th birthday party last week. She is closer to her family than ever before. They severely underestimated her.

They said that Donald was going to die of a rare autoimmune disorder. He couldn’t keep weight on, he was severely malnourished. He was withering into oblivion, and he kept getting worse. Until one day – snap – it all changed. There were no logical explanations, nobody knows what brought the change. They can’t explain it.

It might have been all the prayers. Or it could have been that Donald finally quit listening to “them.” Either way, Donald is fully recovered now. He is a healthy weight, and he is a personal trainer who can bench press a Buick Roadmaster.

They said that there was no way Mikayla would ever walk again. Due to a malady of health problems after a car accident, Mikayla was using a wheelchair, and losing use of her feet. Her cognitive skills were affected, and they said she might be in a vegetative state one day.

But that didn’t happen.

Somehow, Mikayla took a turn for the better. Again, I don’t know what the magic bullet was, I don’t know why the course of her destiny changed. I only know one thing. I know “they” were flat wrong about her.

And here’s the thing. They will always be wrong. They usually are. Which is why I want you to know something.

They can’t tell you what will happen in your life. They cannot see what the future will bring. And above all, they cannot tell you what you cannot do. So don’t let their voices in. Don’t listen to their falsely confident tone. Don’t let them boss you around. Don’t pay attention to them.

One day, you’re going to get through whatever private mess you’re going through. Someday you will be surprised at how far you’ve come. And this transformation you undergo will not only blow your mind, but mark my words, it will blow “theirs,” too.

For once in their lives, “they” will be speechless.

Sean Dietrich is a columnist, novelist, and podcast host, known for his commentary on life in the American South. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines, he has authored 13 books, and he is creator of the Sean of the South Podcast.