“Oh dear God, no, this is terrible,” the professor quips. “You’ll never be an architect.”
That’s Professor Vinick speaking to Ted*, an eager college student aspiring to be an architect. He’s just sat through a lecture of his favorite and most intellectual architecture instructors, and has just had one of his sketches spat on.
Ted is crushed. He’d been hopeful, expecting words of wisdom or even the slightest nod of approval, and has instead been rejected outright by one of his idols.
Fire in his eyes, Ted then embarks on a mission to prove Professor Vinick wrong. Over the course of the next fifteen years, he becomes obsessed with finding success as an architect so he can stick it in Vinick’s face.
Vinick, to put it bluntly, is Ted’s pit guy.
How dare you! And what is that?
A pit guy is someone you’re so obsessed with for so long – whether it be twisted infatuation or hate or proving someone wrong – that you may as well throw them into the bottom of a pit in your basement, a la Silence of the Lambs.
Me? I had my first real heartbreak at the age of 16. It was a terrible breakup between me and my boyfriend (let’s call him Bob) – one of those cliché ones where I come back from a week-long camping trip (really) to find that our Facebook relationship status has changed (I wish I were making this up), and that some time between my peeing in the bushes and rubbing dirt out from my eyes, he has become single and is hot on the prowl. He was two years older than I was, and I had just started my junior year of high school while he was a freshman at Yale. I was in southern California; he was all the way on the east coast. In other words, it was all too easy of an out for him.
It wouldn’t have been so bad, but you see, that was my first love. And you know, the first cut is the deepest. We’d had it all planned out: I was going to follow him to Yale, we would be happy in Connecticut together, wouldn’t it nice if we were older; then we wouldn’t have to wait so long. All that stuff.
I felt like I’d been slammed by a truck. I choked; I couldn’t breathe. I spent that entire weekend wailing in bed to the point that my eyes were practically swollen shut.
The following months were not much better. I became depressed. I shut everybody out and became a dark, quiet, recluse. Eleventh grade was an incredibly difficult year for me as I could do little else but think about him and wonder what had gone wrong.
Over the next five years following the breakup, I became obsessed. Obsessed with Bob. My mission became to prove that he was wrong for rejecting me and to make him realize all that he had lost. He’d graduated high school with honors, so naturally I was going to be the valedictorian. I would collect all the academic awards that he’d missed out on. I’d beat his SAT score. I’d receive early admission to my dream school just to spite him because I knew that he’d been turned down.
The best revenge, as we all know, is success. And I was out to get all of it.
I eventually accomplished all of academic my goals plus more, yet even after several years had went by, I still wasn’t satisfied.
Bob had become my pit guy.
I remember one morning in sophomore year of college, I woke up screaming with tears streaming down my face. I’d had a nightmare about Bob, about him coming back and breaking my heart yet again.
How he could still have such a hold on me?
Back to Ted for a minute. Ted is now in his early 30s and has just achieved an incredible feat: he has designed his very first building in New York City, something unheard of for architects his age. Given his obsession with Professor Vinick, he mails out an invitation to him for opening night.
“Will not attend,” the returned RSVP reads – followed by, “I believe you have sent this to the wrong person; I have no idea who Ted Mosby is.”
In a craze, Ted drives all the way back to Wesleyan to confront him in person. He sits through another one of his lectures and approaches him after the hour is up.
“I would be honored if you took a look at my building,” Ted says as he hands over a picture of his work, beaming with pride.
Vinick pauses before he remarks, “This…is…hideous. You’ll never be an architect,” and promptly drops the picture on the desk.
Enraged, Ted goes back to his car to grab a 3-dimensional model of the building so he can “stick it to Vinick”. As he prepares himself to confront Vinick yet again, he realizes something: he’s been desperately trying to seek the approval of someone who doesn’t really even matter.
In other words, all these years, he’s been making Vinick out to be the pit guy – the guy whom he peers down at day after day as he retreats further and further into his own.
But the reality is, sometimes in life, you’ll make a pit for someone in your mind. But ultimately, the only one in the pit is yourself. Which means there’s only one person that can let you out of the pit.
Ted learns at that moment that all these years, the problem really wasn’t about Professor Vinick at all; it was about himself.
It was about me. I’d lost sight of who I was, and I’d let myself grow so insecure that every decision that I made revolved around someone who did something to me years ago – someone who had inflicted so much pain on my heart that it took five years of radio silence to let that hurting go. I’d been wasting my time chasing after a dream that, in reality, didn’t even exist. It took me that long to finally get that I didn’t need his approval to feel okay in my own skin.
Today, I don’t have a pit guy. I live for myself. My actions and behaviors are dictated by my own passions and desires.
What will serve me the best in the long run? rather than, how can I finally seek his approval?
What will bring me closer to my true passion? instead of, how can I get him to notice me again?
I don’t know what Bob is up to, where he is, or how he’s been. And frankly, that’s none of my business, and I couldn’t care less. For all those days I spent wondering if I’d hear from him again, I sure have come a long way.
It’s about you.
[Tweet “What person in your life are you giving power to, to dictate your self worth?”]
Who are you trying relentlessly to please? Is it your mother, who is living vicariously through you and has convinced you that you really want to be a doctor or a lawyer? Is it your ex-lover, who conveyed to you that you would never be a success?
When it comes down to it, it’s not that person that’s controlling you. It’s you – handing over the reigns to your pit guy.
And really, you’re the pit guy.
It’s not him, it’s not her, it’s not them; it’s you.
Will you channel your energies away from the negative and into the positive?
Will you throw a ladder down to let yourself out?
*Ted Mosby, a fictional character from the TV show How I Met Your Mother. The synopsis above is from Season 8, Episode 11: The Final Page (Part 1). Yeah, I totally went there. Sorry I’m not sorry.
Sohee Lee, NSCA-CSCS is a personal trainer, online coach and writer. After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in human biology from Stanford University, she interned at Cressey Performance before her current position at Peak Performance as a performance coach. She specializes in women’s fat loss and the fitness mindset.