• Matthew Emerson

Treat Yourself Like You're the Main Character

Updated: Apr 11, 2019

I don't know about you, but growing up I always wanted to be the hero.

Here at Chapter of the Day, we tend to obsess over looking at life like one big story, which is more or less is. While it isn't always recorded on venerable pages of parchment, or the Microsoft Word Document of a hipster in a coffee shop, your story unfolds every day, moment by moment.

Unless you journal, in which case it is recorded on paper. Or parchment--I don't judge.

But let me rewind. This is your story. Not your mom's, dad's, or anyone else's.

Meaning: You are the main character. You are the star of your own life.

Being the hero isn't always easy, though. Every hero's journey begins the moment she or he is thrust from their land of comfort into the weird, wide, weird world. Have fun dealing with that.

The womb is pretty comfy (from what I recall at least) and the second that we exit, we get hit. Literally, we get hit. We experience our first jolt of pain as the Doctor smacks us to make sure we breathe. What a welcoming party.

Life is the story of what happens when some insignificant dude (and I use that term in its proper, gender-neutral form) gets tossed out into a strange land said dude doesn't understand. This idea isn't foreign Western imaginations. Percy Jackson is the same idea. Next up, see Harry Potter. Next up, see Katniss Everdeen. Next up, see Luke Skywalker. As plots go, the hero's journey is pretty damn familiar. That's life. There's no other option but to live it, but our perspective can deeply change how we live it.

The typical structure of a story's plot.

Not thrilled? I get it. Not every main character begins the story wanting to be the main character. Most of us don't want to leave the easy life of known territory. Most of us don't want to shoulder the burden of moving the plot forward.

Whether we want to or not, though, it's kind of inevitable.

Moreover, what's Harry Potter without Harry? Or Lord of the Rings without Frodo? The tapestry of life starts to look a little threadbare when the main characters are only sewn in half-heatedly. And that's what happens, most of the time. We forget that if we don't embrace the role we're supposed to be playing (not to mention playing it well) then nobody else will.

Now, don't get it twisted. I'm not saying other people don't matter. They do.

But the fact that we are all unique, that we all possess special traits and abilities, that isn't an excuse to hide from our potential. If you're a great basketball player you do not have the right to say, "well, there's a lot of great basketball players." Instead, you bear the responsibility to cultivate your own talent. You bear the responsibility to make something of yourself.

You bear the responsibility to treat yourself like a protagonist.

At the same time, we can give ourselves some grace. No one likes a Mary Sue*, that character in a story who never screws up, is perfect at everything, and also is super cute (though, as far as I'm concerned, all of the above applies to Dan).

We all have room to grow and struggles to overcome, but that's the excitement of any good story. The climax of a story doesn't provide an emotional payoff unless the characters you followed clawed their way up the rising action to get to the top. The Spartans called this the dance between agon, the strugggle, and arete, the excellence. No man, no woman, no wizard from Hogwarts experiences arete until they have undergone agon.

As a Christian, I think the climax our life is death, though I think that could be fairly agreed upon by most schools of thought. There is no real plateau in this life until we die. So what are the choices you're making as you move forward? Spoiler alert, we're gonna make some mistakes as we write our books together. We aren't always going to get the girl/boy, land the job, say the right thing, etc. But that's okay. Some of the best moments in a book are when your heart sinks with main character as he/she struggles to deal with his/her failure and then watch the character soldier on.

If you took a few seconds, I bet you could think of a few of those moments in your past.

You matter. You have purpose. It may not be immediately apparent, but it's there. Harry wasn't sitting in the closet perfectly aware he was the chosen one. Once he know, though, it changed everything. Once meaning is discovered, we cling to purpose like it's our life-preserver in a storm--and it really is just that.

But purpose isn't static.

A five-year old's purpose looks different than a soldier's during combat, but both possess a very real purpose. You aren't the side character in your own story. You have a plot line to unfold, a dragon to slay, and princess to rescue. Maybe not all of that is literal, but you get the point.

I'm quite the critic of the "culture of entitlement" we live in, but every human being is entitled to is the ability to experience their own story. Take that away from us, and we are inconsequential clay figurines in a toy box with no kid to play with us. So walk like you have a place to go. Keep your head held high like you just vanquished your last foe, because you have. You're still alive. Your villain (depression, poverty, loss) hasn't beaten you yet. So what is your next hurdle? What's the next step on the rising action?

That's what Erik Erikson taught that we are all facing a developmental crisis at any given point in our lives. He's right. Reaching twenty-one, forty, or sixty-five doesn't exempt you from continuing the story of your life. If you have breath in your lungs, you still have words to put the page.

Just remember, There's no cookie cutter way to go through your story. Just the same end. Memento Mori, my friends. Anyways, these are our struggles we have to fight. These are the ups and downs that turn the black and white pages of our lives into full color.

We have to live it either way, so we might as well live it like the spotlight is on us.

*No offense to anyone actually named Mary Sue.

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