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  • Writer's picturetatum van dam

becoming the main character

Among other important things happening in the world right now, there is a commentary trend circulating around Tik Tok that I have coined as “the main character trope.” Essentially, someone will post a video of them doing whatever it is that they do, whether it be lying down, listening to music, and eating strawberries whilst wearing a color coordinated y2k outfit that matches their green lawn, or even someone who records themselves dancing in the middle of an empty road during a rainstorm. The comments section of these videos is flooded with individuals claiming the pictured individuals as “the main character.”

I have further defined people’s ideas of “the main character” as one who lives life without giving any f**ks. Someone who wears what they want, says what they want, and does what they want. Essentially, a gender neutral version of BDE. While I can understand how these comments might be intended as witty and semi-self deprecating as a form of humor, or perhaps even a coping mechanism, I think that it is important to understand one thing: they, whoever “they” may be, are the main character in their respective story -- not yours. We are all our own main characters, we just need to begin acting like it.

No two people are living the same life, and thanks to the eighth wonder that is social media, one can easily see someone else’s life as more desirable. And I am a thousand percent guilty of doing this. I will be laying in bed at two o’clock in the morning, half asleep while watching a Tik Tok of someone walking down the streets of Paris, looking tres chic as ever, and suddenly, I will feel a sense of fomo and regret washing over me. She’s the main character. She’s in Paris, holding a fresh baked baguette and I’m in South Los Angeles, listening to the sirens and pigeons outside my window. And this is the exact issue with this main-character mindset. This fifteen second video of a stranger in Paris made me forget that I spent a whole year living in a Parisian apartment sat atop a patisserie and cafe. This fifteen second video of a stranger in Paris made me forget that I have had the opportunities to explore ten different countries while meeting amazing people and eating delicious food along the way. This fifteen second video of a stranger in Paris invalidated everything in my life that has led me to get to the current point that I am at, which just so happens to be located in bed, at two o’clock in the morning, in South Los Angeles.

It’s not the girl’s fault -- she’s living in her own reality, and I am living in mine, five

thousand miles and a passport away. I have come to the conclusion that if we begin to think positively about our own lives, then maybe, just maybe, we can become that “main character” that we believe other people to be. One thing we are able to change is our perception. I might not be holding a pastry walking down the streets of Paris, but I can walk to my local bakery and pretend as if I am at the one I used to live above on Rue Jean de la Fontaine.

We need to start romanticizing parts, if not the entirety, of our everyday life. We need to become our own main characters. I am convinced that thinking positively about mundane experiences will cause them to appear, and eventually feel, as not-so mundane and more-so exciting. Wake up at 4:30 AM, get some donuts and coffee, and watch the sunrise from your favorite nearby (or far away) viewpoint. Try a new coffee place, befriend the barista, and take a walk around the area. Go to the park, find a tree to lay under, and read a book. There is beauty in everything, and we often forget that it is most apparent in the simplest things.

While my degree in Cinema and Media studies has yet to gain me a stable form of income, it has taught me a thing or two about “main characters” -- which us film folk refer to as the “protagonist.” Films, just as Tik Toks do, provide the viewer with a temporary escape from reality; they are placed into the protagonist’s shoes and are given a slice of someone else’s perspective. We experience the protagonist’s story in the form of an hour and a half long (or fifteen second) motion picture accompanied by a box of tissues and a bowl of popcorn.

If you think about it, stories are the only way we make sense of our lives. The only way we are able to take in information, pay attention, and later recall events, is by putting these events in the form of a story. Why didn’t you turn in your essay on time? How did you get into a fender bender? Where did you get that scar? Surely, your answer will be in the form of a story including a beginning, middle, and end. It’s like we are telling mini stories that help create the larger story that is our life.

Protagonists are not the only characters in films; in fact, a film featuring one protagonist just wouldn’t have the same impact as a film with a full palate of characters. Supporting characters, “bad” and “good” alike, are written in films to advance the protagonist’s narrative. For example, could you imagine what would happen if Lara Jean’s sister never sent out the love letters to every boy Lara Jean had loved? To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before would essentially be plotless and stagnant. All of this is to say that everyone in our lives, whether they are our best friend or worst enemy, are just supporting characters that are helping us progress in our respective stories. I mean, what’s a good film if the main character doesn’t go through a rewarding arc? (I’m looking at you, Season 8 Jaime from Game of Thrones.)

I am here to invite you to think about your life as a coming of age movie. You might not be falling in love with Armie Hammer in the Italian countryside, but you can live life as if you are. Think about your life as any sort of movie you want it to be -- whichever genre you see as most desirable. You are the main character, and everyone who has had the pleasure of stepping into your life is, was, and will be there to help you write your own story.

Plenty of individuals have come and gone into my life (as I am sure other individuals have come and gone into yours), whether it be an ex-friend, ex-lover, or ex-barista who got switched to another location (I miss you, Robert from Peet’s). It is strange how a person, once a stranger, can enter your life for a period of time, and leave just as they did — a stranger. Albeit bittersweet, I am convinced that the people who enter and exit our lives have a purpose in doing so. They teach us lessons, and hopefully, we do the same for them. Any relationship is a relationship worth growing from.

I compiled a list of several ex-someones, and compiled sublists of things that each of those ex-someones taught me. Here are just a few things that I wouldn’t have learned without my ex-someones:

my ariana grande 'thank u, next' moment
  • How to make the most of where you live

  • How to not give a f**k about what other people think; how to have fun, be silly, and live in the moment

  • How to make an adventure out of anything and, furthermore, how to love the Earth

  • How to appreciate music and all the things revolving around it

  • How to recognize that I am deserving of someone willing to go the distance for me, whether it’s five blocks or 5,000 miles

  • How to appreciate my family

  • How to love the little things about myself

  • How to be more aware of my surroundings, both socially and politically

Had it not been for these individuals (and more), I would not have learned important lessons about myself. Lessons that have caused me to become the person that is typing this article. Our supporting characters teach us and we learn from them and we grow, and then we meet a new supporting character, and then the process repeats. And maybe, a supporting character will enter our lives without the intention of leaving. Who knows? Having this perspective on those who had the pleasure of once being a part of my life has helped me remain optimistic during seemingly unfortunate situations.

Confucius once said: “We are given two lives and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”

I will let that simmer with you, as will I let this whole article simmer with you. I am the main character of my own story, and you are the main character of your own story, so we might as well think, act, and live like it.

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