First aired on Tapestry (9/10/11)
Blogger and author Neil Pasricha is riding a huge wave of popularity these days. His award-winning blog, 1000 Awesome Things, has had millions of hits. His publishing spin-offs, The Book of Awesome and The Book of Even More Awesome, are international bestsellers. But things weren't always so rosy for him.
In a recent interview on Tapestry, Pasricha describes how he started the upbeat blog because he needed a lift. His marriage was falling apart, and a close friend was going through a serious depression.
"It was a really dark time for me a couple of years ago," he told host Mary Hines. "I just had the idea that going online, starting up a blog, which seems to be the popular thing to do these days, was a way for me to channel some energy. I didn't know what to write about at all."
Pasricha is at a loss to explain why the blog went viral, attracting millions of hits. But he has a theory.
"I think that in this world of oil spills, melting ice caps, the heaviness of how many wars there are going on in the world right now, people want happiness," he said. "We want a break."
Even in the face of serious problems, Pasricha says, people can appreciate a small pleasure. "If you've lost your house, if you've lost your job, that hurts, and that will take a while to recover from," he acknowledged. "But 99 per cent of our lives is little things, adding up."
He cites examples like smacking electronics to make them work — "it makes you feel handy," he said — and getting the right "milk-to-cereal ratio" at breakfast.
Pasricha credits his friend Chris with being the biggest supporter of the blog, because he would read the posts and give feedback. Sadly, Chris, who had been battling a depression, ended up committing suicide. Pasricha says he retained a couple of entries in The Book of Awesome, against his editor's wishes, specifically because they were among Chris's favourites.
"I feel happy in a way that his memory is spreading through The Book of Awesome," he said.
Chris's favourite post was about the colon. What's so awesome about your colon? "He captures water from your food, he captures nutrients and minerals from your food...he's like the guy at the dump that's fishing around amongst all the junk to find that old treasure to use it somewhere else."
Pasricha attributes his sense of wonder and awe about life from his childhood. As the child of immigrants, he would go to the supermarket with his father, who was amazed by the selection of produce. He would point out how astounding it was to have fruit like bananas from Ecuador and dates from Morocco flown from all over the world and wind up in a store only a few minutes from their home. That's the kind of thing we take for granted, but Pasricha says that, thanks to his father, he was imbued with "a sense of wonder and appreciation for just being alive."
Though his blog is associated with looking on the bright side, Pasricha says that doesn't mean he doesn't have bad days. But he adds that, when you're going through hard times, "you always have two choices. One is to wallow in gloom and doom forever. The second is to grieve, it's important to grieve, but to grieve and then face the future with newly sober eyes."
Pasricha believes that it's important when you're down in the dumps to simply take note of small pleasures and appreciate them. "Pretty soon, over time you might find you're able to think a bit more positively," he said.
The Book of Awesome
by Neil Pasricha
Buy this book at:
From the publisher:
"The Book of Awesome presents simple pleasures for a younger, hipper generation. From the smell of gasoline to fixing electronics by smacking them to the extra time you get when the clocks roll back, The Book of Awesome reminds readers of little things that make us smile everyday.
Entries include: Old dangerous playground equipment, Wearing underwear just out of the dryer, Being the first table called up for the dinner buffet at a wedding, Watching The Price Is Right when you're home sick, When the vending machine gives you two things instead of one, The first shower you take after not showering for a really long time, When cashiers open up new checkout lanes at the grocery store, Sleeping in new bed sheets, Waiters and waitresses who bring free refills without asking, and hundreds more..."
Read more at Penguin Books.