Life Swap

June 6, 2016 § Leave a comment


Lindsey writes,

How do you stop comparing your life to your favorite character’s life? I watch shows and movies and read books about people’s lives that seem so much more exciting and fun than my own. I’ve had my little fangirl obsessions over the years and each time I imagine switching lives with the characters presented onscreen or on the page. Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful for the life I have. I have a supportive family and live in an amazing place, but right now I want to be a part of 18th century Scotland. How can you be jealous of fictional characters and find that same joy and excitement in your own life?

It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality. – Virginia Woolf

I just felt like any good answer starts with a Virginia Woolf quote, right?

Lindsey, I get this. As someone who’s always had a fictional character in her clutches, a character whose life is the be all and end all, I understand this in my heart and in my bones. Imagining yourself in the life of a fictional character, someone born from the head of a writer, is exciting. It’s distracting. At times, it’s also anxiety-producing.

Eventually, it’s a toy we toss aside, and we’re forced to examine what’s happening in our own life. The discrepancy between who we want to be, and who we are. I think it’s easy for me to love a fictional character because I love all of her parts. Her wise self, the playful youth, the shameless flirt, the brilliant mind. Because I also love the imperfect parts as well.

But what I have failed to do is to love my own parts just as fiercely. To let go of who I imagine I might be or who I feel that I’m supposed to be, and to just love the person who is here in this moment.  I have to let go of what my family or society or my alma mater or television or profession or gender or whatever dictates that I be and do.

Fangirls sometimes fall short in this jealousy and self-comparison game, be it with real or fictional people, because we’ve yet to embrace the whole of our own character. Instead we’re focused on the parts of ourselves that want to please others, or stand out and be praised, or fit in with the group.

I am not all the fictional characters I might imagine I could be. I am me. I am all the ages I’ve ever been, all the mistakes, the bad decisions, and all the comebacks. My Tennessee drawl emerges when I’m excited, and I don’t always wear the fanciest thing in my closet. I get nervous at social gatherings, and others times I’m aggressive and impatient. Maybe I don’t wish these things were true, but they are. And I can’t be the person this universe intended me to be if I don’t let all these pieces of me show up. To see who’s on the roster and exactly what I’m working with.

Brené Brown writes in Rising Strong,

One of the greatest challenges of becoming myself has been acknowledging that I’m not who I thought I was supposed to be or who I always pictured myself being. . .I can’t rise strong unless I bring all of my wayward girls and fallen women back into the fold. I need them, and they need me.

Being responsible for how your story turns out requires you to invite all of the pieces of yourself to the table, Lindsey. What parts of you are you ashamed to invite? Pull out those parts of you that you’ve hidden under the stairwell in a tiny Harry Potter closet. Dig up the pieces buried in the backyard. Because when you spend some time with them, you might be surprised what an interesting assembly you have.

Protect those wayward girls in yourself as fiercely as you protect your favorite characters. A captivating story lives in you, as you. Not as anyone else.


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