If Everything is Story, What Are We Really Telling Ourselves?
I think it was being asked about my origin story. It seemed harmless, but I couldn’t get past it. I just stood there, stalled by the wrong sort of possibility. I couldn’t get past the sense of making one rather than finding it.
I couldn’t settle on the overall biography. The would be professional who put to sea, chasing one of the last earthly intensities? The East Coaster living the implicit dream of everyone back at the yacht club he worked at two summers? Or the guy on social media posting his way around the world slyly aware of the illusion he tends and the one everyone expects?
I couldn’t get a solid feel for what the delivery should be. Play it semi-sincere, grasp onto some abstracting, awing quality in a memory and just kind of drift off with it intermittently? Go natural and speak the words as quick as they shoot through, like a squadron of thoughts, chatty, fleet, and fast? Or spin every other sentence with an indecipherable irony?
I couldn’t figure out what kind of impression to make. Is everything now a choice? Between the world ashore and an entire planet before one? Between the ambition impressed by everyone else and the one that still pulls me along? Between the performance of a life and the hope of one that simply, inexplicably is?
A few paragraphs and as many seconds later, a dour frown stretched over my face. It felt as if my body knew something my mind would never. Then we both laughed. I’m still not sure whether it was a joke or that we spontaneously, silently agreed that it was.
It’s not really that funny.
I’m not even quite sure what it is that bothers me. And yet I feel it tighten as a thought glowers about my mind. Maybe this is where people live now. Getting about their own comic universe, tearing over the arcs and defying tropes and convention, true heroes in the structure of their lives.
Is it really just fun with language?
Grafting the ready and relatable onto the new sum of a life. The developing narrative scattered over social media. This new language and expression of what never really had a place or locus before. When the records of existence were dry government entries, a scrapbook or photo album or a few senses of self you never shared because it was still impolite to talk about yourself.
The marketers have their version of you. The programmers and coders work up another. The analytics find you one purchase and perception at a time, a trail followed and charted out in the data world. Every possible decision modeled and run through probabilities. What you might earn. What you might spend. What your prospects are. Assuming you behave like every one else. Assuming you’ll stay in one country or currency.
There’s still the story, though. What with enough complication and texture might hint or grasp at a just beyond, some eternal or universal.
Or does it perish through so many small screens and beady eyes? Never quite escaping that awareness of it. That construction of it. That it’s not really living at all. That it’s forever placing and making something that might never be found. It’s futile, but fun to endlessly refine because what else?
Every day waking up to a better version. Putting the story to it all. Knowing each instant will add up. Every moment forward to see what happens. Life as laboratory. Life as project. Every instant, every exchange should, must be predicated on something, a payoff, an occurrence, an event, some value to make up later or as simple as the expectation of returns.
My brow tightens and I still don’t quite know what it is that bothers me. I look out onto the water and feel all the years with childish awe. There is no number for it. A smile inexplicably stretches over my face. The body knows there’s no story for who I keep finding out there.