Finding Out What You Want and The Moments Between The Big Moments

Sometimes I envy the people I went to college with who knew exactly what they wanted to be. They are now all well ensconced in family and career.  The two kids, the dogs and cats, the nice house and a sense that they are where they belong.  For some people, something keeps them from finding that stability (and financial comfort).  Something keeps these people searching.

These people look at the world and the path that everyone lays out before them.  The simple safety of the everyday life that the world has prescribed for you is enticing.  You see the comfort and the happiness most of the people who have taken that path and you know you could easily join them.  But, then you look closer and you see not everyone is happy with that safety and comfort.  You notice that something about the rote nature of these lives has sapped many of these people of their inner light.  Not all of them, but some of them, and these slowly petrifying people are the ones you notice.

I’m not saying that my classmates are not happy.  I honestly believe, no I know, they are happy with their lives because those lives are all that they ever wanted.  That’s the point.  They knew what they wanted.

I think I am part of that small segment of our society that looks at life in the opposite way.  I knew what I didn’t want early on and then spent the rest of my life trying to figure out what it was I actually wanted.  (Recurring blog theme alert:  This is again a complete first world problem.  You can only think about things like that if your wants don’t include mere survival.)

I often sometimes wish I knew what I know now in 1996.  Of course, if we all knew what we can learn only through experience and stumbling blindly through life making mistakes and taking steps forward, backwards, and sideways, there would be no stories.  There would be no need for art to help explain the world and who we are.

I honestly can’t say that I know who I am.  Not because I don’t know myself, but because I don’t think any individual can be summed up in a sentence or a paragraph of description.  The most you can hope to do is get a sense of who that person is and who they present to the world.  Those are often two separate things.

I think the reason I like writing about character so much in fiction is that humans are infinitely complex.  People’s two or three selves and their internal and external contradictions fascinate me.

I think that is also why I like literature and television/movies where the story takes place between the big moments.  The big action scene or the big emotional fight takes place off-screen.  What you are left with is the complex human emotion of what just happened and what next.  A character killing another character is interesting, but not as interesting as the surviving characters’ emotional reaction to what has happened.  How the characters react to the thing that has happened to them is what I care about.  The moment isn’t as important as what the moment causes and represents in the emotional lives of the characters.

It isn’t the things that happen to you that define you.  It is how you react to those things that define you.  This is true in life as well as fiction.

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