Our Life Stories; A Decidedly Public Publication

I was recently talking to a friend of mine and in some odd turn of events the conversation shifted towards who we believe we are in our so called books of life. Suffice it to say, our choices immensely reflected our own personalities; he believed that he was most like the lonely mountain desperado in old spaghetti westerns, forever searching for that one thing that will complete him and make his life whole, all the while saving villages from evil “Banditos.” He also made it clear that while he views himself as the “Lonely desperado” that it didn’t mean that he was without female company. I on the other hand viewed (and view) myself as more of the narrator of my book of life rather than a character in it, which, if you think about it, shouldn’t be at all surprising, though I do digress. The one thing that we both noticed was that (despite our personal opinions of ourselves) when we compared our own views with each others views, the results were wildly different (I, for example, view him as more of the school jock with a heart of gold and I was informed that I remind him of the popular nerd).

Which then got me thinking; who really writes our life stories. I mean who writes our books of life? Which, in all fairness, isn’t a really good question, because I’m not referring to destiny (mainly because I believe it’s 50% universal randomness and 50% our own choice, though I digress); it’s usually never about destiny. The better question is: who decides on who we are? Is it us, or the people around us? For a moment, allow me to use an old French teacher as an example. During my earlier educational years I was forced to take a French class because, living in the country that I do, it was (and still is) part of the curriculum. My French teacher was a rather odd fellow who made it a habit to terrorize his students into attention because (being a group of English speaking students) we had a tendency to not care about the French part of our education. Suffice it to say, the man was absolutely breathtaking to view in action; in a thick French accent he would, quite literally, silence us and force us to carry out his bidding (which included, but was not limited to, having to read out loud, write scripts for various “Skits” that we then performed, write comprehensive reports on French cities and regions, discuss French traditions and festivals at length in graded presentations, present differing opinions on the state of the French government and, of course, sing French folk songs), which we all did for fear of having to endure his facilitative wrath (that was, in a word, substantial).

Astoundingly, the guy was so good at his job that two thirds of the class (at least) passed on from the year with, again, at least an A- and the remaining one third managed to get an A and higher (for a moment, I’d like to mention that three quarters of my class mates from the prior year did not return for the subsequent one and the school reduced it’s total French classes for that year from six to three; it doesn’t have to do very much with anything, but I just wanted to point that out). The thing, however, is the annoying fact that no matter how much of a terror he was in the classroom, his methods (first of all) got fantastic results and (second of all) outside the classroom he was and (most likely) still is one of the nicest people I’ve ever had a chance to meet. It’s just that he was our mad French teacher and, despite the fact that (for many of us that year) French was the highest grade we got, to us he was an absolute and utter terror and most of us didn’t return for Round 2, so to speak. As it turned out, however, his teaching style had mellowed out substantially and (even though our grades were somehow the same as the prior year) he had become a calmer and more collected faculty member; he had changed.

Though, to all of the people who didn’t return to his class, he was still the same (slightly psychotic) tyrant who made sure to do everything in his power to force us into academic submission. To them, he was still the same teacher who made them stay up well past a reasonable hour to study for a test that was worth less than 2% of our grade, but shaped our complete understanding of the language to the point where we wouldn’t if we didn’t pass. To them, he was still the same dictator who made them quiver with fear every time he entered the room and dropped his leather briefcase. To them, he was still the same man who’s ability to instill fear while handing back grades made them feel like gazelle being scouted by a lion. He wasn’t a very nice guy (is the bullet point summary) and he wasn’t allowed to change in their eyes. Though, the major question is why? Why is it that we expected a person to be the same from start to finish; from the moment we meet him to the point when he no longer inhabited a familiar portion of our mind? Why is it that the characters in our collective books of life remain static and not dynamic? More importantly, why do we expect these characters to only change when we deem it appropriate?

The reason brings me back to the original question though, who writes our life stories? Well, frankly, the answer is that we, as individuals, don’t, because we, as individuals, are not the main characters of other people’s stories. We are the main characters (or narrators, or whatever the central figure may be) of our own lives and everyone else that we meet (no matter how important) is just a side character for us to experience and learn about (or, in some cases, completely and utterly ignore for lack of an interesting character trait). From a far simpler point of view, we are the centers of our own universes and everyone else is merely pulled in or repelled by our gravitational force (if you don’t believe in gravity then I have no idea how to simplify this for you), but the one thing that we all forget is the fact that if everyone is their own main character, that means that everyone is also a secondary and tertiary character with flaws and characteristics that we project onto them (much like the main characters in various mediums) . When we see a person who dresses up in dark clothing, wearing heavy pale make up, with long hair, with an ankh around their neck, the first thought that crosses our mind isn’t “I wonder what his dreams are?” but “Gee, I’ve found myself a goth” or, occasionally, “Gee, I’ve found a vampire wanna be.” The fact is that, to us, this individual is merely passing through and, even if we get to know them, their desires, dreams, and so forth, they will still be secondary characters (to us, because this individual is the main character in his own life). They won’t be the main characters of our books; they’ll be our creepy goth vampire friend and they’ll only be allowed to change or expand from that role if we allow them to.

So I suppose it’s very sad and disappointing that we, as a species, are so selfish and, I’m sure, it’s even more disappointing that stereotyping and profiling is so prominent in our lives that it quite literally defines us, but the fact is that we are not who we think we are. We are defined by the people around us, and our influence on them extends only as far as we allow it to (which, if you think about it, is the one positive point here). If we want to be the lonely, attractive, and wise mountain desperado, all we have to do is dress like one or act like one and everyone will believe us. Until that point, we’re nothing more than a friend, or a brother, or a cousin, or a daughter, or a son, mother, father, grandfather, teacher, biker, goth, vampire, writer, and so forth.

The main point to draw from here isn’t that no one is special and if you think you’re something, then you’re not that because someone else will disagree. The point to recognize is that we are only who we are once defined by others, because otherwise, everyone can be whatever they want and everyone will end up picking the “Awesome” character description (in keeping with literary motif). Of course, then the major question that’s raised is “Why do we need others to define us?” A question that circles all the way back to the first question: who writes our life stories? Well, the answer is that our friends, family, companions, acquaintances, co-workers, love interests, pets, and rivals do; which is why I will end this article on this final note: remember that the concept of you is not defined by you, it’s defined by everyone else. So the next time you feel like having an existential crisis, just remember to ask those around you and then decide on what you want to do. I can guarantee that their opinion on the matter will be substantially different than what you expect.

As always, this has been your Admin; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

  1. Is there a service available that geotags blog posts while on the go and is able to post to map with others?

    • I’m not entirely sure, but I’m sure if you google it, you’ll find your answer soon enough.

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