Science, Fiction & The Art of Creating Yourself
by P. Braithwaite
In my freshman year of college, I was immediately obsessed with my best friend, Trela, a social butterfly who stunned me with her ability to talk to cute boys and hold her liquor (respectively). She was the pinnacle of all things cool to a socially-awkward bookish girl from Long Island who didn’t drink (without vomiting).
In our second month of friendship Trela confessed something important: “I’ve seen every episode of Star Trek.”
Her eyes averted mine and then quickly darted back at me.
“Do you like the X-Files?”
(I have a surprisingly shallow taste in television, and despite overt philosophical themes, science fiction bores me.)
We somehow moved beyond that awkward impasse in our friendship, and recently, Trela shared that she wanted to take her secret love of science fiction to another level; she wanted go to a sci-fi conference to meet the cast of Supernatural.
“There’s a little bit of ‘cool’ in me that is judging myself,” she said.
Now, in this moment I could have laughed at her (I think I did), but instead, I shared the secret of my entire life:
“You have to live your life life a character in a book. Go weird places, do weird things. Meet strange supporting characters. Go to Nerdfest 2013 and dress up as Harry Potter.”
“Send me pictures,” I added. “so I can blackmail you.”
“I hear you,” she responded.” but I guess I don’t know who I am, or who my character is…What does this say about my character?”
I’m learning more and more that none (most?) of us know who the fu*ck we are. Sure we know our roles: mother, daughter, lover, friend. We cling to certain attributes: race, gender, geography or religion, and we crochet them into clothing that we mistake for our true selves. Strip off those labels and affiliations and who are you?
Who knows. I suspect we are something beyond words.
“If you go to your Nerdfest,” I responded. “It doesn’t say anything about your character. It’s a situation your character is experiencing in the moment…in one little episode of the series that is your life.”
This pep-talk, as with all my pep-talks, is one that applies to me.
I am building my business, and I’m so afraid to fail. I’m constantly in tension with my self as
a writer an artist and my self as a coach and my self as a generally imperfect person.
The fear of marring my character keeps me paralyzed.
That last one scares me most of all.
Fail is what I whisper to myself when I want to freak myself out, but its an appropriate directive. Fail epically and loudly and on your own terms. Try things and fail at them. Build things and knock them down. These moments of vulnerability say nothing about your character. They are merely experiences your character is having. They are episodic adventures from the story of your life.
Your life is an adventure. You’re the star of your own novel. Be Harry Potter in the story of your life.
You don’t have to know who you’re becoming. You just have to get into the tangled and messy melodrama of each moment. Each moment is another chance to create and craft yourself. Do everything and anything in your heart and know that you’re more magnificent than the outcome of any situation.
I’m working on it.
And so it is.
Pssssst, in other news, I’m doing my first telephone call event type thing. I will tell you guys about it on Friday. 🙂