People fascinate me. The way you think you know someone, and then they completely flip the script on you — I love surprises like that. I love how everyone’s mind works differently. It’s amazing how certain people can view something in a positive light, while others consider it a negative. It’s also amazing how strangers can affect your life with just one comment or remark—and how the shield of a computer screen gives some people the gall to act irresponsibly and abandon anything resembling human decency.
But over the years, I’ve learned to wash my hands of the negativity and treat insults as motivation.
There are a bunch of comments that stick with you, positive and negative. Whether a family member or friend gave you words of encouragement, or a mean menopausal stranger called you a twat on a blog post, a single quote has the ability to shape behavior and teach a lesson. These quotes can inspire and incite change, or they can deter and infuriate. Regardless of what or who, you determine how each of these comments affects you in the long run; their meanings are purely up to you. Significance lies in context.
Here are some of the most memorable things people have said to me, including gems from loved ones, acquaintances, and complete strangers:
“…nice lookin like Tom Cruise- he has potential”
In 2012, I wrote and starred in a YouTube video called “Untold Stories of the Pre-Owned Car Salesman.” Using my newfound acting chops — thanks to an Experiencing Acting course for non-theatre majors — I played a car salesman named Dave. Anger management classes had subdued Dave’s temper, or so he thought. The character (I cannot stress enough that I was just playing a character) also happened to be a blatant racist.
Anyway, after a few years and roughly 13,000 views, a sweetheart of a person commented on the video and made me laugh really hard. The “Tom Cruise” thing probably wasn’t even the funniest part of the comment.
My friend John always insists that I am the second funniest person in our friend group. (He’s first.) It’s probably the nicest thing anybody’s ever said about me to this day.
“How aren’t you famous yet?”
I keep in touch with a few of my ex-girlfriend’s friends because they’re great people. Two of them, in particular, think very highly of me, and one was actually baffled by my lack of fame and fortune. She told me I was talented and wonderful, and it was one of the most flattering moments of my life. Probably should’ve dated her instead.
“Ryan, you were funny like three years ago.”
My best friend’s younger brother was extremely intoxicated one night. During a heated game of beer pong, I made a joke about how he kept changing the music every thirty seconds. He delayed his shot and responded with a comment that somehow resonated with everybody around the table, including myself. The timing, the delivery, the words he used — it was probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. And true, nonetheless.
I wrote a sarcastic love letter to Emma Roberts a very long time ago. I spent months tweeting it at her, in the hopes she’d read and respond. My initial efforts proved futile, so I gave up for awhile.
Not long after, my brother tweeted something kind of mean at Zach Braff, suggesting perhaps he’d get better seats to Mumford & Sons shows if he starred in a better sitcom. Braff jokes around a lot on Twitter, but he immediately blocked my brother without so much as a witty response to put Jared in his place.
Disappointed in Zach Braff’s reaction, I wrote a blog post about how celebrities should have thicker skin, especially ones known for comedy. My post made it onto a popular gossip site and garnered all kinds of attention, including an obnoxiously rude comment from a woman named Michelle. The part that bothered me was not the word twat because that’s hilarious. The talentless thing stung the worst.
*For the record, Emma Roberts has not blocked me on Twitter. One night in 2013, I saw the Scream Queens star tweet about a book she’d read. I promptly responded and sent her my letter one last time, then continued to the bar with my friends. Hours later, my phone was blowing up with notifications because Emma had retweeted my letter to over a million fans of hers.
“You’re a natural [on Indian TV].”
Less than four months into my current job, my boss asked me if I wanted to join him for a television appearance. Without knowing many details, I agreed to do it. It was supposed to take place on a Thursday, then the Friday after that, then two Fridays from then. I was convinced it would never happen.
I’d purchased a new blazer and had the sleeves taken in, because if I was going to be on TV, I was going to do it right. My boss informed me the appearance would take place on a Sunday evening, in the TV5 satellite studio located in central New Jersey. TV5 is a Telugu station that broadcasts throughout India, as well as select areas in the United States — exclusively through DISH Network.
Sunday evening in New Jersey meant that it was early Monday morning in India, so most of the viewers were probably night owls and loyal TV5 watchers here in the states. We received some viewer questions live on-air, even one from California.
Most of the broadcast was spoken in Telugu, but the program’s host — bless her heart — switched to English for portions that involved me. My first appearance on the screen came at about thirteen minutes into the program. The host shifted in tone and tongue, turning her chair toward me:
“There’s a white guy in the Telugu studio, so I’m more intrigued in talking to you…”
The feed cut to Camera 3, which featured a medium-closeup of me, a deer in headlights. A very white deer in headlights. She expected me to carry on a conversation that had been taking place in a different language for what had seemed like days.
After a weak start, I finished strong, using callbacks to my boss’ hybrid Telugu-English verbiage to express my points about social media and our business. When the program concluded, the host commended me on sticking in there and responding when prompted. It was one of the weirdest and most interesting experiences I can think of, and also the first time I experienced racism firsthand.
“Keep doing what you’re doing”
I wrote this quote down a few months ago, but I realized I’ve been misattributing it this entire time. I know somebody said it to me or wrote it in a comment on one of my posts (probably the latter), I just have no idea who it could have been. A stranger is my best guess, which shows how someone random can affect your life with something as simple as a nudge of encouragement.
“I MAKE SIX FIGURES. I’M NOT LOSING THIS BET…”
Hoboken sucks. Its bar scene is full of spoiled white yuppies or yuccies or whatever the hell they want to be called now. I’ve seen people snorting cocaine in bathrooms while I’m trying to take a piss, and I’ve gotten into drunken arguments with guys about the New York Jets’ roster. That’s what this quote is in reference to.
Out for a friend’s birthday in Hoboken, I began talking football with some dude in the bathroom. He claimed that some running back on the Jets’ roster was going to be good for them that season. I told him he was probably thinking of another team because that guy wasn’t on the Jets.
We were both pretty drunk, him more so. I researched it on my phone because we live in a world where we have infinite knowledge at our fingertips at all times. I was right. He owed me a shot.
He must not have liked losing that bet because he began shouting things about his income — which literally had nothing to do with the Jets’ depth chart — at which point his friends kindly apologized and escorted him from the bar.
“Shut up, Ryan. You don’t know what love is!”
I do not know what would possess someone to say this to another human being. I do know it is appalling and offensive and just plain mean. I no longer wish to be friends with this person.
If you recognize any of the quotes listed above as something you’ve said to me, thank you. Thank you for inspiring and motivating me. Except the last one. You are evil and I never want to speak to you again.