Tag Archives: narrative

Storytime Dreams

I told Mother this morning that when I grow up, I want to be a protagonist in my own story. She just laughed as she set a plate down in front of me with two strips of bacon, two slices of toast, and two eggs over easy. “When I was your age, it was every boy wanted to grow up to be a firefighter, or astronaut,” she said. “Now everyone wants to be the protagonist in their own story. If everyone was a protagonist, then who would do the work that makes the world go ‘around, huh?”

She always delivered the guilt trip over things like this. “Can you imagine if Ms. Mott wanted to be a protagonist? Who would be left to teach you about reading and arithmetic? If everyone was a protagonist, there’d be no one left to teach you how to be a protagonist!” Ms. Mott was my second grade teacher. She was beautiful, blonde, and buxom, and she was very understanding and patient when I needed help on my math homework.

Mother sat down at the table across from me in our tiny, cramped kitchenette and looked at the eggs on her plate. She sliced cleanly through one of them with the edge of fork; the yolk didn’t run, meaning she’d left them on the stove for too long. Mother always hated when the yolk was too hard. It reminded her of my father. That was why she was so sensitive about my dream of being my own protagonist — father had left her for the exact same reason. “I’m tired of living my life for the betterment of someone else’s story!” I heard him yelling angrily through the wallpaper of our rent-controlled apartment. “My father worked for the union for 55 years, and all he had to show for it was a boring old pension and some ungrateful kids. He would have been happier if he just had his own story. I’m not going to make the same mistakes as my old man.”

The next morning, my father was gone. By the end of the weekend, Mother had cleared out everything that reminded her of him. Well, except for me. I’d always had his pale blue eyes and moppy brownish hair — and now I had his foolish dreams as well.

“Well…maybe I can be an astronaut, and a protagonist!” I tried telling her before biting into my first slice of bacon. The crunching reverberated all throughout the empty hollow of my young head. I waited for the echo to die down before swallowing; there was still no response from Mother. I looked back down at the food in front of me, the food that she had so lovingly prepared for me, and I tried to appreciate each bite as I forced it down. The only other sound was that of Mother trying to fold the newspaper in order to read it properly — our kitchen table was too small these days to rest the pages on.

As I finished up my breakfast, all she said was, “Hurry up. You don’t want to miss the bus.”

Creation Myth

In the beginning there was a Story
And the Story was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Tradition of the Story moved upon the face of the waters.
And the Story said, Let there be God: and there was God. And the Story made God in its image.
And the Story saw God, that God was both wrathful and loving: and the Story divided the good from the evil.
And the Story called the good and evil into conflict, and the light against the dark.
And the Story set this in motion through Time
with only God to guide its words.

Our Stories.

With poise, F. Scott Fitzgerald remarked, “There are no second acts in American lives.” But this cannot be true representation of our lives. We SlimFast. We gain weight again. We Jazzercise. And put on a quick 15 at the holidays.

So maybe the comment extends past body image. But there are instances recreation all around us. As a college student, I am continually terrified that the real world is waiting; I am not sure what I want to be, or where, or how I’ll get there. The only comfort that I find in my situation is the assurance of other adults that the world is not a steadfast place. You can change jobs, remarry, and redefine yourself when you feel that it is necessary.

The wording in Fitzgerald’s quote is quite interesting. Although he denies the possibility of it, he refers to life as existing in ‘acts’. Coincidentally, it is human nature (although contested as such, but I feel it is a rather innate trait in all of us) to tell stories. This process of telling our stories allows us to develop our own personal narrative that we tell. This narrative is rather mealeable and only certain people know all the details — and only you can know how these details impact your life. Regardless, the stories exist and they are an insight into our thoughts and feelings about situations.

Beyond providing a means to re-evaluate our current lives, telling stories permits a type of forward thinking. In our interactions, we harbor love, or contempt, or strong desires that are driven by our stories. In that manner, telling our past stories generates our perception of our future self. This understanding or idea of a future self allows for us to violate the Fitzgerald quote. If I know what I am and what I want to be, I can behave in such a way as to reconcile any differences between the two ‘me’s’. And after I have changed once, I can continue to look forward and adapt more.

As I reconsider it, perhaps F. Scott Fitzgerald was correct. There are no second acts in American life because the word ‘act’ implies some distinction. Despite our traumatic events and the beautiful events that occur, we can only continue what we have. Marriage is not a ‘second act’ as much as it is a development- an evolution- into a new narrative. Our stories only become more intricate – but we’re not Shakespeare nor tragedies. Our stories are already marked with a certain death. Yet as we work toward the inevitable, we develop our own narrative and path- and this is the true marker of our identity. Not our personality. We define ourselves with stories- the continual flow of one day to the next. Within this construction, we grow and redefine until we reach the end of our days.