I have spent much of my life, so far at least, living vicariously through the experiences of others. I live through film, television and books and on the periphery of the lives of my loved ones. I experience by proxy. It started with the books I would plough through, one a day, as a kid. Then I found a way to get greater access to my great love, the television. When I was a teenager, my family would be in bed by 9pm and I would have three hours of television, and the video recorder, to myself. I experienced all the great moments of being a teenager in my own teens, but through Allison Reynolds, Brenda Walsh, Emma Woodhouse, Baby Houseman and Neil Perry. With my books and my VCR I had little need to actually leave the house, if I had been able to, and experience the perils of the real world. I could just observe and learn.
Then along came movies on the big screen. At university that literally changed everything – I made friends for life and learned about the real art of cinema and story-telling. I learned to be more objective about the process of story-telling and a little about the arc of time through history (my actual degree). But, in many respects, this was still in a safe, protected, a little bubble from the real world.
So, as I was forced to pretend to be a grown up and get a job, I found myself continuing to escape. When things got too tough, I would get through the things I had to and retreat to my little burrow to live through others, in the safety of fiction.
In the fictional world there is always a beginning, a middle and an ending. Sure, the creator(s) may mess around with time within their creation but there is always be a beginning point to the telling of the story, it will always end (be it cancellation or the turn of the last page of text) and there is always a middle section.
Living through the fictional world of others isn’t healthy. There are lots of issues and I’m not going to delve into them all here but the one thing that is so obviously different to a real life, and yet also the same, is that in a real life you have a beginning and a middle but you are normally totally without any understanding and only limited control over the ending. In hindsight I feel like I have spent so long waiting for my ending, this perfect moment, a place in my life where I am happy, where I have ticked off all the boxes on the endless ‘to do’ lists, where I have (or don’t) my own family, where there is contentment, where I ‘get it’ and it all makes sense, where, well, the moment where the pages run out or the story ends. I always hoped that it would end with a ‘happily ever after’, but it occurred to me this week that the end, in a real life, is just that. The End. Game Over. That’s all folks.
We don’t get much control or say over our beginning, our childhood, and we have even less influence over the ending so our life is only really about the middle section and that bit is always messy and full of drama and issues, it’s sometimes heart-warming and funny but it’s also painful and confusing and often surprising. It’s full of people that we’re not sure that we can trust and bad decisions and it feels like it’s never going to get resolved because that would mean it was ending. I know that this is all obvious but sometimes I just need to think about it in a new way. If it’s in a story, then it makes more sense to me but I can’t keep waiting for my story to end because then, like Tony Soprano, it’s just a cut to black. I guess I just have to keep trying to live a real story of my own and stop being the villain in my own story.