“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs
“Daddy, tell me a story.” It’s easier to fall asleep with the promise of a happy ending.
“Preacher, tell me a story.” It’s easier to get through life with the promise of ultimate salvation. Stories make life easier.
Stories give me comfort. But the stories you tell me are all the same: a pleasant beginning; a scary middle; a happy ending. I’m conditioned to one sequence of relationships, events and emotions. Your strict order dug itself deep into my brain.
Now I can’t escape the confines of a your fantasy plot line and none of it is real. All your characters’ lives are told in a story in which each event gains meaning when examined behind the first and before the third. But life can’t be summed up by one plot line. My life can be constricted to one story.
So now I manipulate my own relationships, events, and emotions to fit into your fraudulent plot line. To form a story in which each step is related to the last and hints at the next. Now I explain each event in the context of a greater narrative, one that always has a happy ending.
So you ask me a question and I provide you with 4 years of backstory, desperately seeking to justify each scary middle with the pleasant beginning and the surely happy ending. I’ll do anything to find the ‘meaning.’
I’m a great storyteller. I’m the best at re-writing my own experience to match someone else’s irrelevant plot line. The one that gives you that deep sense of internal satisfaction when you reach the end. The one that ties a perfect ribbon around each self-deprecating thought with a beautiful lesson and a happy ending.
When things are good, my life is like a Cinderella story. When things are bad, my life is like a Shakespearean tragedy. But no matter how I twist my relationships, events and emotions… my life is neither: not an epic nor a tragedy. Sometimes the bad will foreshadow the good, but more often they coexist as completely irrelevant circumstances. No bigger picture. No larger ‘meaning.’
The timeline of my existence is not mirrored by your plotlines. It took me two decades to realize that life isn’t just one beginning and one ending. It’s a constant series of beginnings and endings. Nothing is permanent .You justified my struggles as a sign that happiness was around the corner. It’s not. You claimed these bad years were only a part of my bigger story. They’re not. You said we owed it to each other to keep fighting. We don’t.
But if everything good is going to one day end, what is it all worth? Why fill my life with joy that will inevitably be taken from me? I was so blinded by the idea that a happy ending equated permanence of ‘all things good’ that I couldn’t see the beauty in the unpredictable, the beauty in the random. The happy ending that is each new beginning.
So I came to the conclusion that life is inherently bad. But I was wrong. Truthfully, life is inherently nothing. That’s the point. That’s the ‘meaning,’ if any. And I know you probably feel bad for me, but don’t. I feel bad for you. You can’t escape your plot line. You can’t escape your constant struggle to fit the puzzle pieces of your life into one beautiful picture. There isn’t one beautiful picture. The beauty is in the random and the imbalance. The beauty is in letting go of your discomfort around the missing puzzle pieces and the unmatched ones that somehow fit together perfectly. But you can’t accept that life is random and because of that, you can’t understand each ending. The gaps and exceptions make you so deeply uncomfortable that you can never be free.
I am free. I see an ending and know that a new beginning awaits. I am free. Each new beginning is just another happy ending in disguise.