By Justin P Laplante
Live your story
If you’re anything like me, you’ve imagined yourself as the main character of a book or a movie once or twice — or imagined yourself hanging out with the main character of one of your favorite films. Anyone? No? Just me? Anyway, as humans, we are a story telling species. From cave paintings to Troubadours to Shakespeare to Toni Morrison, we have been telling different types of stories since we first became humans. Not only do we as a species tell grand, epic narratives, we as individuals also tell stories about our day to day lives: we tell stories to ourselves, we tell stories to our partners, we tell stories to our friends. The stories we tell influence the way we feel about our lives and our loved ones. If we can tell better life stories to ourselves, we can live happier and love stronger.
Main character vs side kicks
We all tend to think of ourselves as the main character in our story -- the Odysseus, the Elizabeth Bennet, the Jay Gatsby, the Katniss Everdeen. And of course, it’s important to have a sense of agency in your own life. But make sure that your partner doesn’t get relegated to a sidekick -- no one wants to play second fiddle to their romantic partner! Rather, think of them like your partner-in-crime: Batman and Catwoman, rather than Batman and Robin, Han Solo and Leia Organa, rather than Luke Skywalker and R2-D2, Xena and Hercules, not Xena and Gabrielle (or Hercules and Iolaus, take your pick). Think of you and your partner teaming up to fight life’s challenges together, to have each other’s backs. Being a Dynamic Duo is a great way to orient your story together with your partner.
Speaking of life’s challenges, all good stories have some sort of conflict, or else they wouldn’t be good stories. In our own lives, we don’t have to deal with dragons or The Empire to get our narrative dose of conflict -- we can make due with getting stuck in traffic, parent-in-laws, or dealing with our bosses. Remember, you don’t have to go it alone, you’ve got your partner-in-crime on your side! Use each other to help get through the rough times in life, the times that would make for a great story (but that might be pretty terrible to live through).
[Editor’s Note: even a fight with your partner can be an opportunity for a collaborative team-up; rather than Me vs. You, it can be Us vs. The Problem. How can we, together, tackle this issue of ‘having a different strategy for spending money’? Turn the argument into the dragon, and then slay it together! Or maybe befriend it, name it, and let it live a little more peacefully in your home. I hear dragons are good at keeping pests away.]
A note on Fear
When some big conflict comes up, it’s natural to feel fear. Fear can be helpful for motivating you to do something! But sometimes it can also paralyze you. So think of yourself as the protagonist in a story: when they’re scared, they act anyway. And, often, when you conquer the thing you fear, you usually ends up creating a great story! Afraid of heights? Cliff jump. Afraid of the dark? Sleep outside. Take a chance on something you’re on the fence about. Taking a risk and putting yourself out there can lead to some amazing stories after it’s all said and done!
Moral of the Story
What’s the moral to your life’s story? What do you think your life stands for? What do you want people to say about you when all is said and done? All stories have morals, even if they aren’t as obvious as Aesop's Fables. The Hobbit might have a moral about the importance of friendship, or bravery, or cleverness (or luck!) -- and different people might read different morals into Bilbo’s journey. We all have many positive qualities, the important question is, what is the significant guiding principle(s) of your life for you? Whatever it is, it’s important to acknowledge it, so you can start to live your story, and the moral of your story, more intentionally.
Our lives are a series of stories, and we’re the only ones who can write them. The stories we tell ourselves about how our life has been so far have deep impacts on us -- for good and ill. Don’t be afraid to change the story of your life that you’ve been telling yourself all these years -- let that chapter end and write your story for the better!