Something I read recently set the creaking gears in my mind to whirring and grinding: it was a reminder that each of us was the author of our own lives. Not an Earth-shatteringly new idea perhaps, but it had me pondering both the degree to which it is true, and also the implications of such a role.
There are numerous factors that make us the person we are: our genes, gender, sexuality, race, upbringing, social position, wealth, education, and the chance circumstances of one’s early life must all play a part.
Clearly an orphan, growing up in poverty in some war-ravaged corner of the globe, will have a very different experience of life and very different opportunities to the privileged offspring of comfortable upper-middle class professionals in a sleepy Surrey village. So we are certainly not all starting from the same place and with the same degree of literary freedom, when it comes to the authorship of our own tales.
There are many people who would argue there is another author involved in our stories. The deity worshipped in whichever culture they grew up in will often get much of the credit for their (or their children’s) character and successes. Although strangely not for their failures or the many tragedies that may befall them.
I don’t think there were any gods involved in my creation, more likely a bottle of wine and some romantic music. Since I am unencumbered with any such supernatural beliefs, my co-authorship of my life should be, at least in theory, more amenable to some judicious re-writes and edits.
My story thus far has been fairly unremarkable: I have no glittering academic achievements, haven’t set the world ablaze with my talents for art, business, or yodelling. In fact aside from one or two mildly interesting adventures and mishaps, it’s been pretty tame stuff so far.
So, given the chance to take a red pencil to it, or do some creative re-writes, what bits would I change?
I have kind, loving parents who worked hard to keep me and my two brothers well-fed and happy. We were not rich, but we didn’t starve and always had a safe, warm place to lay our heads. So far, so good.
I guess I could have us fight off an attack of giant killer ants, to spice things up a bit. I could give my Mother a more interesting job, perhaps head of MI5, and/or a star of stage and screen. My Dad could be a racing driver and international chef. And we’d maybe spend part of the year exploring exotic destinations, discovering lost tribes and mysterious ancient temples, while documenting our adventures in gripping home-movies that would go on to scoop the Palme D’or at Cannes, in a category specially created for us.
I might make one of my brothers a sister (Roberta? He does look pretty good in drag), just for balance, or create a wealthy and eccentric uncle who’d turn up out of the blue and regale us with crazy tales of wild Hollywood parties, while driving us to star-studded red-carpet events in the original batmobile.
School was pretty average, so I would probably make a few changes there: edit out some of the bullies for starters, or give them some hideously unpleasant ailment, say huge boils on their faces and nether regions, that erupted every time they felt the urge to pick on one of us more introverted and slightly swotty types.
I could also add a showdown with the ringleader of the bullies where I kick his ass with my kung fu / ninja skills and impress the shit out of the girls. (Would also need to add girls, since I went to an all-boys secondary school).
I wouldn’t mind a deeper voice, a couple of extra inches in height and a few extra IQ points, (all of which tends to make one more successful, according to the research).
But this is all very tame, if I am the author, anything goes, right? So instead of just watching the Moon landing in ’69, I could have been in mission control or even in Apollo eleven itself, making one giant leap for mankind. Although admittedly that would be rather odd for a young British child.
I guess in my early years I could be some sort of boy wizard, a precursor to Harry Potter perhaps. Or maybe a brilliant young sidekick to Dr Who. Better yet, I could be part of the crew of the good ship Enterprise, boldly going on adventures at warp speed, then beating Mr Spock at tri-dimensional chess and Captain Kirk on the Judo mat.
As adults, I could make me and Mrs Halfbananas criminal masterminds, with a volcanic lair and a cat (at least we have a cat. It’s a start). Or we could be vampires, with centuries of life ahead of us, and we wouldn’t have to put up with annoying noisy neighbours any more: one warning and then you’re a vampire’s pick-me-up.
Maybe we’d be superheroes, although personally the only appropriate character that springs to mind is Procrastination Man. I would certainly love to have the agility of Spiderman and the brains of Stephen Hawking, rather than my current configuration which is more the other way round.
My re-written self would probably be far less neurotic and anxiety-prone, braver and a great teller of jokes and anecdotes. In fact now that I think about it, criminal mastermind/vampire/superhero/stand-up comedian/scientist would cover it nicely.
This has been very therapeutic and I’m sure the local Jobcentre will have tons of openings to suit my new ambitions next time I pay them a visit.
What would you re-write or edit in your life story?
© Copyright Jason Lennick 2017