YOUR LIFE IS THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD
By Max Dubinsky: I’ve got this idea where if I could be anyone, I would be John McClane or Indiana Jones. But I don’t have a fedora or a whip…or muscles for that matter. Just the fingers of a Jazz pianist from all this typing.
I’m only a writer. But I spend my days imagining car crashes, mysterious assassins, natural disasters, damsels in distress, flesh-eating zombies, and me -- an unwilling, average man, thrust into the role of a hero. All the elements are there: a near perfect story full of action, suspense, romance, and a zombie apocalypse.
Why do I find myself daydreaming about these characters and putting myself in their shoes? Could it be because my life isn’t exciting enough? That I'm not living a good enough story?
I’ve been reading Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It’s the story of him editing his life into a story fit to be made into a movie. Miller discusses how hard it is to remember the life you’ve lived, how memories get lost in a few drinks in a few years, and whether life even happened if you can’t remember it.
He believes we all have a story to tell, and that some of us are not living the right story.
I was terribly unhappy with my story. My parents divorced when I was in the seventh grade. We never did much as a family. I don’t think any of us shared a common interest outside of the word game Boggle. I was cut from every sports team I tried out for. I couldn’t relate to any of my friends. And by the time I reached high school, I felt like I couldn’t even get the attention of my mother who had become numb from the divorce.
I started dating girls I shouldn’t have. I tried my first beer at 15 down at the lake with my cousin (For every sip, I would surreptitiously dump five sips in the grass). I picked up smoking. I started eating painkillers and caffeine pills. And I did it all just to get some attention.
To make life exciting.
To seek out stories in the wrong places because I wasn't given the opportunity to live out a good one.
Then one day my mom went out and bought me a video camera. You see, I’ve always loved the movies. I grew up talking about them with my mother and seeing them with my father. I wanted to direct movies and write books. Those were the stories I wanted to live out, but I never had the opportunity until my mother handed me that camera.
I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol or go to another party for the rest of my high school career. Instead, I took that video camera with me everywhere I went and I filmed everything I saw. Parties, drinking, sex, rebellion and disobedience became of no interest to me, but I still needed things to film. So I rode unicycles and dislocated my fingers. I invented a game called Fireball that involved fire, tennis balls, and lots of gasoline. I spent weekends out on the lake with my buddy Ryan. I tried out for high school plays. I cleaned all the furniture out of my mother’s house and threw a dance party. And. I. Filmed. Everything.
I was suddenly given the opportunity to live out a story I wanted.
Right now I am staying with the Kerouac family -- relatives of Jack -- and they know a thing or two about adventure. The daughters in this family grew up on the road, and spent a lifetime being encouraged to seek out the things they love in life. “And as a result,” they told me, “things like drugs and alcohol and rebellion never appealed to us. We already had a story.”
And they are still living it out, pursuing it with intensity. Instead of seeking out the next party, the next bar, or the next sexual encounter, they paint, write, take photographs, and study anthropology.
Those of us who live for the weekend -- are we living a meaningful story? Or are we piling on subplots to make our lives look interesting? Because the thing about subplots is that the good ones propel the story forward; bad ones go nowhere and drag the story down.
Sometimes we cannot face the truth that the stories we are living are lies; that we are living a story unintended for us. But we find ourselves there, comfortable with the characters, stages, and players because they are familiar, and we know how to handle them. Even though our story may be a tragedy. Even though we may be the villain of that story.
My truth today is that I have hurt not just one individual from my past, but many. But my truth is also that I have spent the last few days living outside, hiking through the woods, forging rivers, and exploring old Civil War ruins. I am sunburned in South Carolina, and I’ve run out of resources. I have no idea where I am going next. All I know is that I need to get back to LA. And I need to return to the woman I met on the road and plan to marry.
And so the story begins. What does your story look like? Are you living an adventure today you’d love to talk about? Are you living in the truth? Or have you created a story to accommodate a life you were never meant to live?