Roger Sterling is one of my favorite characters in any show. Always witty, always on point. Comedic while surprisingly insightful and deep. He has a great scene while visiting the psychiatrist which I find particularly insightful:
Pretty cool huh? While Roger’s speech comes out with a negative and gloomy tone we can gleam a few truths and positive messages from his reflections. There are two thoughts he brings up that I really like and will dig a little deeper into one of them here and the other later (Part 2).
One premise Roger describes about human nature that I agree with is this: People do not change. Roger believes that as we pass through the doors, windows, and bridges in life we are essentially on a straight and unchanging path. I have found this to be true more often than not. I am not talking about the details, but the broad strokes. The morals, values, and ethics that define the foundation of our characters. Jobs can change, friends change, responsibilities change but our drive won’t change. Our value systems won’t change and our moral compass’s won’t change.
It’s our compass that defines the straight line Roger refers to. That sets the course of our ship as we pass through each gate and threshold we encounter. Unfortunately for Roger, he is coming to realize during his second divorce that maybe his voyage does not include an extended stay at marriage. As the stories of each character in Mad Men unfolds we see this theme pop up quite frequently where each tries to stray from their path and change but after awhile they return to their original course. They can only pretend to impersonate someone else for so long.
Don Draper’s constant struggle with women, marriage, and faithfulness is a perfect example. Are we to expect Don to one day wake up and assume the role of the model husband? We have seen that story play out and the result has been the same each time. Don has exceptional skills for faking his outwards appearance but even he can’t avoid his inevitable flaws. Roger and Don are on a carousel, constantly revolving back around to the path they have always been on.
Are we doomed to ride our own carousel forever? Grounded to the rails of a track with as much freedom of motion as a train that only goes in one direction? Maybe. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on whether you use the word “doomed” to describe your path. If your compass has you pointed in a good direction then perhaps “blessed” is a better adjective.
Roger is right and people are who they are. College, careers, marriage, kids, retirement… these things don’t change you, its just you at a different door. I have not been to all these doors yet but I still expect it to be me when I get there.