How I'm Trying to Be the Main Character of My Own Life 📚✨
my thoughts on romanticization, imperfection & growth - welcome back to The Slush Pile!
Can y’all believe we’ve already reached Issue 05 of The Slush Pile? So far we’ve covered a wide range of topics, from the Frida Kahlo communist-to-capitalist pipeline to my tips and tricks for freelancing to most recently, the mythos of the work-life balance. This month, I’ve been thinking more deeply about image and illusion, romanticizing my life online and in real life, the joys of indulging ourselves in movie-like fantasies and the danger in allowing others to believe them, and what it really takes to be the “main character” of our own lives.
Being “the main character” has been a concept since storytelling first began but it’s only been in recent years that it’s taken off as a phenomenon online, as something not just reserved for characters in fiction but for us in our real lives, too. With the rise of COVID, global warming and climate change, and just general awfulness throughout the world, it’s obvious why the idea has become so popular, especially among young people. It gives us something to control in a world where nothing is certain, somewhere to escape to when everything feels painful, to say with a perfectly posed photo of a chai latte on our Instagram stories, “we’re okay.”
Many of us love being the main character for the same reason we love MCs in fiction. Protagonists often feel the most human, who go on important journeys of growth and self-discovery to chase their destiny and reach their happy ending. They are the center, the heart, the connective tissue keeping all the elements of a story afloat. Were the main character not to exist, there would be no story at all.
Some call the trend dangerously self-indulgent and fake. Others proclaim it as a form of self-care. For me, trying to be the main character is something I’ve definitely found both comfort and pleasure in. After hours of doomscrolling on Twitter, sometimes I do need that pretty picture of me posing in the mirror with half of my face hidden. When I’m having a hard time getting through work, posting a cute picture of my desk set-up can help me through it. And when I’m having a really great day doing my favorite things like going to the bookstore or the movies or a plant nursery, I want to show it off in an aesthetic fashion that also happens to be my personal style of photography and videography. In that way, social media can be a great tool for cultivating that “main character” persona online.
In real life, it’s about the music I’m listening to as I go about my day. Whether I’m looking out of windows like I’m in a music video or taking a walk or sitting at my desk finishing up some work, the perfect soundtrack is essential to that existential and aesthetic feeling. Your life might be a rom-com, a coming-of-age teen film, a thriller. Or like me, you might be the protagonist of a low-budget indie movie who wants to be a writer and listens to 80s rock and pop, modern alternative, everything ever written by Coldplay and The Smiths. Especially in the car, popping on songs like “Asleep” or “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (even listening to a lo-fi hip hop radio station) can make me feel like anything is possible.
It’s about being unafraid to go after what you want and if you don’t know what that is, to be open to discovering it. About embracing adventure, asking for help, doing what you’re passionate about. Doing what can incite a lot of introspection and excitement for life in you, which, after all, is what being a main character is all about.
In today’s world, doing little things like that to make us happy are something to be encouraged and perhaps even a necessity. But I also am not naive enough to ignore the possibly harmful implications. Like everything else on social media, the main character identity largely ignores everyday struggles, annoyances, and discomfort—in other words, real life. For some reason, trying to be the main character has become synonymous with being perfect. But we know that the MC is often the one making the biggest mistakes, saying the wrong things, learning from their mess-ups. We want the feeling of leading a film without all the not-so-fun stuff that comes with it.
Believe me, I get it. I love making my life feel and look like a movie, to look back at my old social media posts and see a perfectly captured tray of succulents, to listen to music I once heard in 500 Days of Summer, to look up from my laptop every so often to enjoy the view outside my window. But only as long as it’s not just about the aesthetics or the right camera angles with which to view my life, but to appreciate this experience of living even when it’s not so fun to be me. And to remember that as much as we are the main characters of our own lives, we are also the supporting characters in someone else’s: the sibling, the teachers and tutors, the employee, the best friend, the crush. To lead our lives and support others in their efforts to do the same is an honorable and wonderful thing, and it’s a part of the MC experience that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough.
Whether you embrace your main character-ness or not, as a writer I can tell you this: stories only really start with what we call the inciting incident: when something happens to the main character OR the main character goes out and begins their story. Based on that one moment, I can instantly tell what kind of story I’m about to be told and everything I need to know about the protagonist moving forward, if their destiny will happen to find them or if they go out and get it for themselves, or maybe a little bit of both.
So I leave you with these questions: what kind of story do you want to tell? Who is the one telling it? What kind of main character do you want to be?
notes from the writer’s desk ✍️
my favorite recently pub’d pieces:
I’m excited to announce that STREAMING SERVICE: season two, the sequel to my self-published debut poetry chapbook STREAMING SERVICE: golden shovels made for tv, will be releasing JUNE 28TH, 2022! Digital and signed physical copies will be available, as well as the option to bundle both chapbooks. Read more about the project here! Thank you as always for your support :’)
My magazine Mag 20/20 recently opened up submissions for writing, art, music, photos, and more! If you’re a creative in your 20s, please feel free to submit your work to us before submissions close on June 4th, 2022 at this Google Forms link!
Later this month, I’ll be leading another writing workshop around the theme of political protest poetry in collaboration with Unpublished Magazine! Keep an eye on my social media channels for full details <3
other stories i’m loving 📖
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
Bob’s Burgers S7
currently listening to:
Keepintouch by Love You Later
all my love,