“We’re all stories, in the end.”
The Doctor says this to a sleeping young Amelia Pond in the Doctor Who episode, The Big Bang. He is on the wrong side of a crack in time that’s rapidly closing and his story is about to end. He’s sharing it with one last person in the hope that he would be remembered.
I don’t know whether Steven Moffat intended it this way when he wrote it, but this line gives us a way to look at our lives – as stories.
What happens in stories? You have a character. That’ll be you. That character has a reason for being in the story – some goal. While we all would like having lofty goals like defeating a tyrant, saving a damsel or keeping the world from exploding, you’ll probably have to settle for goals like getting a job, providing for your family, getting married, travelling, writing a book, passing your exams. Can I tell you a secret? These goals are much nobler than those in stories because they are real and they make a genuine difference in people’s lives.
In a good story, a story that will keep the readers hooked, the heroine has obstacles standing between her and her goal. In fact, at any creative writing class they will tell you the obstacles must seem insurmountable. In a really good story it will seem impossible for the hero to win. And isn’t that often how life feels? You lose (or can’t find) a job. You fail miserably in an important exam. Something happens preventing you from studying for exams. An important relationship implodes. You get picked on because of your looks, race, beliefs, work ethic, sexuality. Life gets hard. So hard we feel we can’t carry on, we can’t possibly win.
But somehow, the hero in the story always wins. He always manages to overcome the obstacles and emerge victorious.
“Aha!” I hear you say. “That’s where your analogy breaks down. In real life the hero doesn’t always win.”
To which I respond, “Why not?”
Sure, sometimes the hero wins because the author used a shameless plot device to ensure the hero wins. In a good story, however, the hero wins because he makes the right choices.
And you also have choices. This is probably the single most important thing anyone will ever tell you in life. You always have a choice. People and circumstances can take everything away from you except for one thing – your choice how you are going to react to your circumstances. Victor Frankl realised this in the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII and it is the thought that sustained him until he was freed. He wrote a book about it afterwards, Man’s Search for Meaning. I can highly recommend it.
I say it again: you have a choice. You can choose to go sit with your head in your hands and tell yourself that you’re never going to overcome those obstacles. Or you can choose to face them, to tackle them head-on and either overcome them or die trying.
The only edge the heroine in a story has over you is that she has an author, standing outside the story, thus being able to see the choices she should make. But it’s not that much of an edge. You also have people standing on the outside. Parents, teachers, mentors, elders and even friends can all help you gain perspective on your circumstances so you can make the right choice. If you’re religious you also have God and your religious texts to guide you. But in the end you make the choice.
There’s another part to what the Doctor tells Amy. “We’re all stories, in the end,” he says. “Better make it a good one.”
See, you are in control. You make the choices that determine where your life is going, whether your story will be good or bad. Yes, life will throw you curve-balls. At times you will feel like you want to quit. But you have the choice. (By the way, that includes the choice to ask for help. No one said you had to go it alone. The TARDIS was built for six pilots.) You can make your story good. You can make your story one that will be remembered.
We’re all stories, in the end. You are the author of yours. Be sure you make it a good one.