I was standing in Publix yesterday, looking down at my phone, when this little boy stopped right in front of me; maybe nine or ten years old. The thick, square frames that sat on his nose made him look bug eyed. As I looked down on my phone, I heard him talking, and my eyebrows scrunched together, fingers pausing on my keyboard, as I realized he was talking to me.
“The girl looks down at her phone, typing something. She has yet to realize that I am narrating her every action. She will look up, confused.” As if on cue, and to humor him, I looked up.
Laughing, he continued, “She laughs, and I will continue to narrate her as she looks back down on her phone, when she begins to frown as she begins to think I’m being annoying.”
So, following his narration, I laughed, looked back down at my phone, and frowned. Who am I to argue with the narrator, after all?
He was laughing like I was doing the funniest thing in the world, then his mom called him and he skipped off. I burst out into laughter as soon as he walked away. That was the strangest exchange I have had in a while, and I found it so funny.
It sounded like something I used to do when I was younger, and maybe that’s why it was so strange for me. It felt like I was looking back into the past. Now, I didn’t narrate out loud like a weirdo (sorry, random kid) but I did it in my head. If I were just walking to school, or doing something perfectly mundane like reading a book, I would narrate it in my head as if I was telling a story. When I was listening to this little boy narrate me, I couldn’t help but think how disjointed it sounded, how unlike a true story. He was just describing actions, and in an endless, run on spiel.
I guess I should give him some credit. He’s like, nine.
Nonetheless, my narrations when I was nine were much better, if I do say so myself. I would imagine myself like an author, and I would think like I was writing everything that happened before me. If I had written it down, it would have been a best-selling book, I guarantee it.
Okay, maybe not, but the exchange stuck with me to today, and enough that I decided to write a post about it, because it just made me think of so many different things.
First, about writing and characters. Characters can be so unpredictable, just like people are, and I think that’s something that’s super important to remember. Make them do something wildly unexpected. That is what makes a character seem so real, so dynamic- when you actually make them human. Just people, not only with flaws, mistakes, and problems- but with small actions that make them, them.
Second, how freeing it was. I mean, how crazy? A random kid coming up and narrating your actions, just because? It was simple, and it was short, but it was also just because. Who does anything ‘just because’ anymore? No one, that’s who. What was so strange about it to me was that it was just because, and that’s what kept me thinking about it.
Lastly, and most importantly, it made me think of our stories. Our own, every day stories that we are all writing. With every breath we take, every step we walk, every word we speak; we are writing our stories. And unlike the story I started off with, there is no one narrating our story for us. We are the narrators of our own stories. We get to decide the beginning, middle, end, and everything in between. You are the narrator of your life, whether you like it or not. It’s a big responsibility. Don’t take it lightly.
In this season of thanksgiving, it made me realize how thankful I am for that. Not only for strange, unexpected encounters. I am thankful for how I am the narrator of my own story. You are the narrator of your own story, so have fun writing it!