April 19, 2022

GUEST ROOM | You Aren’t The Main Character, You’re The Writer

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I remember last year, while in the midst of one of my daily obsessive Tik Tok scrolls, I came across the sound encouraging you to romanticize your life and be the main character. A young woman wearing Baja bangles, a well-curated outfit and a skincare routine Hiram would approve of said, “You have to start romanticizing your life. You have to start thinking of yourself as the main character because if you don’t — life will continue to pass you by. And all the little things that make it so beautiful will continue to go unnoticed. So take a second, and look around and realize that it’s a blessing for you to be here right now.”

Originally, I laughed, viewing this ideal as self-indulgent, but I now recognize that there is an important message behind it — it can really change your view on life. The idea of romanticizing ourselves and seeing the beauty in the small things is only beneficial. Romantics don’t just idolize love, but they idolize the individual, emotions and feelings. They have a mentality of enjoying life for what it is, and seeing the beauty in everything. Although, I do think that this sound doesn’t convey what it intends. Dolly Parton, my idol, said it better when being interviewed by the BBC: “Everybody’s life is a soap opera. Everybody’s life is a country-western song, depending on who’s writing it.” It’s about how we view life. We can all be the victim, but we can choose to be resilient and positive. It’s not about being the main character, but it’s about how we choose to perceive our place in the world. 

The point is that we have the ability to control how we deal with and perceive life, and control who we are even if we can’t influence some of the events. Think about it this way. You aren’t handed a script. You are Lena Dunham playing and writing herself in Girls, or are the guys in Always Sunny. We can make our story and we can change the lead. We choose whether we are a victim or an underdog rising above. Whether our failures, rejections and bad actions are the stepping stones of a tragedy or the trials and tribulations of a coming of age story. Whether we are the quirky lead who is figuring it out or the brooding misunderstood villain. We can choose the side characters and the love interest. We have the ability to change our life for the better just by changing how we perceive it.

I’ve thought about this a lot in the context of maturing and evolving, considering the difference between healthily accepting ourselves for who we are and changing ourselves for the better — the difference between viewing our inadequacies as something that we should work on or a quirk in ourselves that we should accept as endearing. This emphasis on change may stem from the ginormous impending life change coming closer and closer as I approach graduation, or from the wise words of my mother when assessing my defense mechanisms: “People can change, and you can change. You aren’t stagnant.” The wisdom of this woman shouldn’t be overlooked just because she is my mother and she looks like Lily from Gossip Girl. She helped me to see that we can work to change things holding us back that are potentially inhibiting us from being happy. 

Reflecting on my four years at Cornell, I realize how much I have changed and the effort I have done to do so. I look at the world and life in an entirely new way. I have chosen to recognize the ability to do a writer’s most important qualities: edit and rewrite. When you write, you quickly realize that your first draft resembles the final one, but with reflection, you change the work to be better. We should strive to do the same thing with life. We can’t alter the past, but we can change our understanding of it. It is not enough to just change our perception — we need to reflect on who we were to become who we need to be, and to figure out how to become better. It’s not enough to edit, but it’s the thoughtfulness behind these edits where beneficial change truly begins. Like Dolly said, I hope you write the story you want. 

Lily Elkwood is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Guest Room runs periodically this semester. Comments may be sent to [email protected].