The power of story-telling is the ability to create whatever world you want. With a few of your simplest words, you are free to reinvent the laws of nature, twist the past, or propose a unique future. Stories are portals to endless alternate realities. Books, movies, video games, TV; they all lead us to new worlds, but these are just the obvious pathways. When we engage in fiction, we are consciously choosing to depart from our own world, but even in our daily non-fictitious activities we are frequently flyers of trips to the non-existent.
Let’s take a moment to step back and ground ourselves to something a little more solid than trans-reality plane metaphors. When I was in 4th grade my favorite classroom pastime was trying to see how much I could stir the pot without getting into trouble. Yes, I most definitely was the loud kid in the class. Jokes, pranks, snarky remarks… I had a full repertoire. I felt pretty confident about my ability to push the envelope while still avoiding any serious discipline, but little did I know then, humility always finds time to pay a visit. There came a day when I no longer toed the line, but instead took a giant leap across.
This day took place shortly after the ever-so-loved quarterly fire drill. I found myself thinking that regular fire drills were a little too droll and predictable so I took it upon myself to spice up cause the next one. My 10 year old mind put together a master plot that would surely result in my sweet amusement. I singled out the most eager-to-please-no-matter-the-repercussions kid in the class (you know the one, let’s call him Steve-O), and then the two most influential kids in the class (the most threatening and most popular: Brutus and Fonzie). I’m sure you can guess what comes next: together, Brutus, Fonzie, and yours truly convinced Steve-O to pull the fire alarm after school just so we could all laugh at the chaos. Needless to say, the deed was done, but since most 10-year-olds put Snowden to shame when it comes to tattling, in the end we were all caught and fully disciplined.
My day had come. I lost, and in fact, faced some pretty severe repercussions (don’t pull fire alarms kids), but that’s not the real story. The real story is everything that followed the fire alarm. This instance was one of the most memorable times in my life when I had felt true and utterly painful regret. I can remember lying in my bed at night wracked with the desire to take it all back. I stayed up until 11:11 hoping that I could wish my bad decision out of my life forever.
At its core, this story isn’t unique. We’ve all faced many different struggles that have left us wishing that life came with a reset button. But it doesn’t. We make mistakes, life goes on, and we grow.
So what do fire alarms have anything to do with that strange non-reality talk five hundred words back? Well, we all face many fire alarms in our life, sometimes on a daily basis. We all go through experiences that leave us longing to take them back. We walk away from arguments thinking of great comebacks, or leave relationships saying “I wish I could take it all back.” Every time we have one of these thoughts, we are knowingly or unknowingly booking a first class ticket to non-reality.
The past is the past, we can’t change it (if you don’t believe me, ask H.G. Wells). No matter what clock, star, or magic lamp we wish upon, what has happened, has happened, and along the same vein, what will be, will be.
The past is only half of the battle. We are constantly stuck in the awkward position of an ever-growing past lying the brink of an ever-expanding future. When we’re not stuck in yesterday, we’re daydreaming about tomorrow; wishing, hoping, and dreaming. Some dreams stay truer to reality than most, but no matter how you roll it, when we think about the future we’re writing new realities in our head. Ultimately, our greatest trial is to try to make these new realities match the present one.
This is no easy task, but it’s the most important focus of this blog, and it’s why we’ve chosen it as the topic for entry #1. We won’t leave you hanging, we’re just getting started. Entry #2 is all about the “how”.