I’ve adopted the habit of making life to-do lists; written vision boards of me in some vague, unspecified future. The scrawls usually summarize an aspirational version of me as someone who doesn’t hate everything he wears, has a job he enjoys and isn’t overthinking the smallest details about every moment. Above all, I like the idea of trying to be a better person in one way or another every day, and the lists put it into perspective.
I made another such list the morning I read GQ’s new cover story, Brad Pitt Talks Divorce, Quitting Drinking, and Becoming a Better Man. Throughout, Pitt speaks to Michael Paterniti about the fallout from his marriage ending and the changes he’s been making since.
Brad Pitt is one of my favorite actors, so I was going to read the article either way, but I didn’t expect to be so surprised by it. It’s open, honest, and doesn’t shy away from the idea that we’re always moving forward and have the ability to improve. By the end, I realized that I’m craving more refreshing interviews like this.
Along with his openness about attending to therapy for the first time, Pitt addressed concurrent feelings of joy and sadness.
“It’s been a more painful week than normal—just certain things have come up—but I see joy out the window, and I can see the silhouette of palms and an expression on one of my kids’ faces, a parting smile, or finding some, you know, moment of bliss with the clay. You know, it’s everywhere, it’s got to be found.”
Lists as evidence, I’m a sucker for improvement, and with the seemingly endless supply of terrible men who have soared to the top of politics, media, and technology, it’s refreshing to read about such an accomplished man working through life’s issues in a positive way. Further along, Pitt took ownership of his negative traits.
“Sitting with those horrible feelings, and needing to understand them, and putting them into place. In the end, you find: I am those things I don’t like. That is a part of me. I can’t deny that. I have to accept that. And in fact, I have to embrace that. I need to face that and take care of that. Because by denying it, I deny myself. I am those mistakes.”
The above quote is why I think Pitt’s article is so essential. Many stories about men detail some lofty struggle they’ve overcome — that snowy mountain peak that took grit and determination to conquer — but what about when you feel sad and just want to curl into a fetal position on your kitchen floor? What about those times where you have to look at yourself in the mirror and be honest?
For me, a great piece of writing serves as a lantern in the dark, illuminating new ideas. I found a level of comfort in this article because, at 53, Brad Pitt’s struggles with life can seem similar those of someone in their 20s, but with the added wisdom of age. And as our society seems ever-geared toward fleeting digital applause, it’s refreshing to read something so honest about what matters, like below.
“Family first. People on their deathbeds don’t talk about what they obtained or were awarded. They talk about their loved ones or their regrets—that seems to be the menu.”
At this point, I took a step back and realized the article that reads like catching up with an old friend is an interview with Brad Pitt. And then I took another step back and realized articles like this shouldn’t be so rare that I keep taking steps back.
So many notions about what it means to be a man could change if more publications interviewed subjects the way Michael Paterniti profiled Brad Pitt in GQ. It’s a powerful platform to promote being a real man, and I’m glad it did. Articles like this help normalize talking about these issues and set an expectation that we should. Without others being honest about themselves, how can we know what we feel is universal?
Photo Credit: Getty Images