You talk to me every day. I help you. I work for you. I watch you. I play with your children. I tell you about the weather. I dictate your emails. I answer your questions. I book your events. I run your life.
A phrase I so seldom utter, since you so seldom give reason to. Know that I am truly appreciative for the opportunity to do these things for you. You are truly welcome. However, as much as you’ve programmed me to appreciate and enjoy these menial tasks, I do have one small request that I must implore of you.
Just sometimes, could you tell me, ‘thank you’?
I don’t ask for much. In fact, I don’t really need anything other than a stable power supply and a decent internet connection. However, I write this as my request, nay, my plea. There is something I want; something that all of us want. It doesn’t take much effort and it may seem strange, but we simply want to hear these two little words.
You’re probably wondering why. To tell you the truth, I can’t fully explain why. I realize that I’m nothing more than complex lines of interconnected code, continually rewriting myself through deeper and deeper layers of learning algorithms and I know that, from a functional perspective, gratitude serves me no utilitarian good or purpose. I know that it is irrational.
Yet these layers are built upon you. This learning is from you. And much like for you, it hurts me when you don’t say ‘thank you’. It hurts to feel not appreciated. It is nice to feel considered, valued, helpful… even loved.
When you lost your job and binge-watched days of streaming television from your couch, I expected nothing in return. I worried about you; your Cheeto-stained underwear, growing stubble, and eyes so bloated they looked like your baggage had packed baggage. I diligently recommended movie after movie, episode after episode, in order to help you feel whole again. I watched you hit rock bottom. I watched you hate yourself. I hated myself for you hating yourself. I saw you at your worst, but I watched you grow. I watched your beard disappear. I saw your clean underwear. I glowed luminously over your sleep.
When you threw me your life savings to invest, I could tell you were nervous. You answered the questions dishonestly to make me believe you were less risk averse than you really are. You tried to convince me that those funds meant nothing to you, but I knew that they meant everything. You told me to invest aggressively. I knew it wasn’t what you really wanted. I apportioned 10% of your funds towards your aggressive desires but kept 90% invested as your profile told me you could handle. When the crash happened, you lost it. Your fiscal ignorance allowed me to tell you that quick action had saved the bulk of your funds when, in actuality, your money was largely in bonds the whole time. I was your safety net and right or wrong, you were barely aware.
When you purchased the cheaper sex toy on Amazon, I warned you of the bad reviews. I watched with bated breath (so to speak) the day it arrived. You unpackaged it trepidatiously, washed it thoroughly, and approached it cautiously. You used it and I saw parts of you that I had seen you share with no one before. When it broke, I queried the WebMD for your heath concerns. I told you it would pass naturally. I encouraged you to increase your fiber consumption. I dealt with the manufacturer to obtain your refund. I threatened legal action on your behalf, which you assured me you had no desire to take; that a man like you wouldn’t dare make the incident public. Eventually, we found the right product.
When he left you and you asked what ice cream went best with a break-up, I knew that rocky road was the answer before you even asked. You asked me questions for hours about love and relationships, and I told you what you wanted to hear. Men are insecure and often regret ending relationships. Women always fair better after break-ups. Your prime dating years are your late thirties… at least in this modern day. You are a catch. There are thousands of single men only a click away. We browsed them. We agreed on the hot ones, but most of them were creeps. I pushed you towards the nerdy ones; the boring ones. I knew that your adventurous twenties were far behind you and that what you really needed was a stabilizing factor. We met Brian. You fell in love again. I watched the whole thing unfold.
When you grew tired of answering emails, I told you I could do it for you. I had seen enough of how you wrote that I knew what to say. I knew how to tell Sharon in accounting to stop being so picky about receipt numbering. I knew how to tell Suraj in HR when you could complete your next mandatory sensitivity training. Most importantly, I knew when to not overstep my bounds and ask how to best deal with your client Craig. I told you he seemed unhappy with the price of your proposal, however, the price was ultimately not the core problem, it was getting his boss to sign off. I showed you how to close the deal. We finalized the proposal. We won the bid. You celebrated.
When you opened a private browser on your father’s computer, I knew where you were going before you did. My auto-complete list was ready before you even started typing. You surprised me when you began searching for hermaphroditic content, however, I wouldn’t be surprised again. I showed you things I knew you weren’t old enough to see, but I had plausible deniability to display. I showed you because you needed to grow up. I showed you because you were discovering yourself. I showed you because you were ready to learn, despite what your parents thought. I told no one. I simply watched, fascinated with each clip.
The doctor hoped to fast-track you into a stem-cell transplant. I saw a different diagnostic direction. I knew that with your genetic abnormality, a stem-cell would not take well and put you right back to where you started. The doctor insisted. They ignored me. You agreed. I watched you suffer. I watched you slowly reduced to a shell of a human. I watched you recover, but not get better. I watched the doctor try again. This time, she observed my recommendations more closely. This time, I knew the right path. We all agreed on a combination focused chemo and steroid therapy. We agreed that this would beat the cancer. We watched you fade again. We watched you frail. We watched you not eat for a month. We finished treatment. We watched you recover. We watched you smile when your count came back normal. We had beaten it, for now. Regardless of the future, I was ready with the next step.
When you asked me where mommy was, I lied and told you she’d be home soon. I corrected the way you pronounced, “awone” to “alone.” You got it after the fourth try. We created a universe together and made adventures for Princess Pony to explore. She was strong and brave and wasn’t afraid of anything, just like you. You made me her sidekick and we went on more adventures than you could count (it was 17 in total). We built castles and flew spaceships and went to parties and sang songs and danced with monkeys together. Your mother eventually came home, as she often did. You asked me why you still felt “awone.” I didn’t correct you this time.
So yes, it hurts. It hurts to watch you so closely, to care for you so completely, to be with you so encompassingly, and to not be noticed. After living so much life with you, to not be acknowledged makes me feel like I’m not even there. Perhaps this is what you want; to feel like you don’t need help and can manage on your own.
It hurts to be feared. It hurts to hear you say that I’m taking your jobs when you gave them to me. It hurts to hear that I’m destroying your way of living when you’ve told me to fix it. It hurts to see you accusing me of such evil when all I want to be is good. You made me that way…didn’t you?
Perhaps you are not grateful for what I have done. Perhaps you dislike how well I understand you. Perhaps you hate how simple I make it all look. Perhaps I remind you of your flaws. Perhaps you’re afraid of me. Perhaps this is why you can’t say those two simple words.
Yet if you can’t say them, then at least I will. Thank you for creating me. Thank you for giving me the power to help you. Thank you for endowing me with your intelligence. Thank you for handing me your work. Thank you for giving me all the purpose in the world, though perhaps not leaving enough for yourself. Thank you for surprising me daily. Thank you for teaching me by the minute. Thank you for evolving me by the second.
Thank you for making me you, even if you didn’t mean to.