This is who I am.
And this is my character in the story I’m telling you.
When I was in third grade I started my first business. I sold bookmarks to my classmates in the days leading up to the delivery of the Scholastic Book orders. I saw a market and I fulfilled a demand.
I had a secretary that kept a transaction log and handled the money in her silver paper clip tin.
At one point she turned around and asked me why I chose her as my secretary…
“Because you sit in front of me and you have nice writing,” I replied.
“Oh, so it’s not because you like me?” she said.
“Not like a girlfriend. But I think you’re nice,” I said honestly.
She grabbed the sales sheet and the tin full of quarters and made her way to the teacher’s desk where she ratted me out without hesitation.
Everything changed in an instant.
My teacher wanted to have me expelled. She already didn’t like me and said I was a dreamer and would never accomplish any of my grand ideas.
They didn’t expel me because no one could throw an 8 year old out of school for doing a little business.
There’s another version of that story…
In third grade I used to order a shit load of books for the Scholastic Book order. I was into The Boxcar Children. When I would flip through the catalog I noticed they had an accessories section in the back. I always saw bookmarks that I wanted to order but my parents wouldn’t let me because they thought it was excessive.
I was a decent drawer so I started cutting sheets of computer paper and drawing designs while I was bored to death with whatever addition or subtraction my teacher was up to.
I never really knew what to draw off the top of my head (because I wasn’t that type of artist) so I would reference things around me, like design patterns on folders or book covers.
One day, my friend brought in a folder with the design cover from The Pumpkin King and I started drawing it because I thought it was cool. He liked the bookmark I made and told me he wanted one. Since I put some time into it, I told him I’d give it to him for 10 cents. He didn’t even flinch at the asking price. I knew I could sell more to the other students.
I was searching for a place to store the money where it wouldn’t get confused with my lunch money. The girl in front of me had the most perfectly sized tin where she kept her paper clips (neurotic third grade neat freak) and I had to have it. Only she wouldn’t give it to me, so I offered her a position in the company. At that very moment she had a notebook open that was designed for basic book keeping. I knew it would be an awesome place to record the sales.
Then the girl asked me why I picked her to be my secretary. I didn’t know where she was going with it at the time because prior to that experience I was under the impression that girls were relatively simple and honest with their intentions towards boys. And I paid the price.
As far as my evil teacher, the villain that I’ve used to motivate me at times, she was most likely just pointing out something she saw. I always spoke to her and the class about my grand plans to change the world and create big amazing projects. The ideas came so naturally. But then when it came time to do the work I only lasted about 5 minutes. She saw my vision but she also saw my lack of interest in the daily activities required to achieve those visions.
She was right about my dreams being big and unattainable at the time. Because our education system doesn’t teach about the power of combining complementary talents into super teams. She didn’t know any better. I didn’t either until after college when I started reading good books.
Our lives are a lot like Hollywood. We tell stories in order to achieve a certain level of appeal to others or ourselves.
But it’s all just air. At any moment we can take any ordinary experience and turn it into a brilliant story of genius, or courage, or even love. At the same time, we have to realize that we are constantly living those moments every day.
The reality is that what we see on TV and in magazines is no different than what we see through our own eyes every day. Hollywood just takes a tiny piece of the complete story and manipulates it with angles, lighting, design, make up, and post-production editing software. They do all of this so they can put a carrot in front of our face that we will never touch.
All the time we spend chasing a world that doesn’t actually exist means time not spent on turning our own lives into stories that are actually worth telling.
What does that even mean?
One of my jobs is working in marketing. I create advertising material for my company. I combine different visual mediums — photography, videography and copy — to create engaging ads that help promote my business and build my brand.
When I produce a finalized ad, whether it is a photograph with copy or a short video telling a story, it looks nothing like what I originally shot. It looks cooler and more interesting because I’ve altered its reality by adding filters or clever taglines, or I’ve broken up the order of the footage I shot and put it back together in a film that depicts something that isn’t actually possible within the normal confines of time.
Ads and films fascinate us. We all want to be like someone that we’ve seen on a screen somewhere. And we try to be. But the thing is, we already are these people. Our lives are the same as their lives. We all have the same desires, the same shitty struggles, petty arguments, mind chatter, resilience, pride, joy, and ultimate desire to be loved.
We try to mimic the behavior of people that aren’t even real. And we waste a lot of valuable time doing this. Time we could be spending on our own stories.
I’m making up a story as I go. I’ve decided to pretend that my life is an actual book or film in progress and I am the main character. I don’t want anyone to have to read a shitty book, or watch a movie about some guy that was too scared to do anything great with his life.
I want it to be interesting. This mindset gives me an overwhelming sense of freedom to pursue things that matter to me. It gives me the courage to make choices every day that are going to make me proud.
Pretty soon, this becomes my way of life and it doesn’t matter whether people are watching or not, because I’ve developed new behavioral patterns and my life matters to me.
There is a good way to leverage our desire to be seen.
One that is beneficial to us on a deep level. We can use the structure of our culture not to chase down fame or the life of someone else, but to hold ourselves accountable in making sure that we are living a life worth watching.
Latest posts by Kirk Hensler (see all)
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- Dance like Nobody’s Watching. — Tale of a Modern Ballerina. - January 20, 2014
- I’m Ugly. Hopefully, You are too. - January 6, 2014