Your 2014 Narrative

“There is no longer any such thing as fiction or nonfiction; there’s only narrative.” -E. L. Doctorow

As human beings, we are social, pattern seeking creatures that crave a narrative. It is of the utmost importance to have an overall schema to assimilate all other events, people, and data into; a big “What?” and “Why?” Less a functional and sufficient narrative in life, a person will likely fall prey to a sort of contextual and social vertigo. Such things can cause a great feeling of distress in life.

It is an evil crime to rob one of his or her history, because that is where one’s narrative begins. Such things were done to millions of kidnapped Africans, in a few previous centuries, via the Atlantic slave trade. These Africans were taken from one narrative and injected into a harsh an unjust new one, with a different name and religion.

A narrative is so important to us, that if we don’t have one, we’ll welcome another person or group to dispense one for us. Many times, we find the solace of an established narrative and tradition in ancient religious books; sometimes, in a more recent dogma. A modern KKK member sees their self in a land run by oppressive Jews and infected with immoral black people. A traditional Buddhist would feel the need to be at peace and in harmony with his or her own inner self and the external world. Either narrative is as effective at giving one a sense of meaning, importance, and social context. But, I hope the vast majority of us can see that one narrative is ideologically superior and more beneficial to society, as well as to the individual.

One may feel a certain Nihilistic taint toward this idea of narrative. The question could be raised, “We all just die in the end and probably have little impact while alive, so why does it really matter?” I would answer that question in this fashion; if the only person your narrative mattered to was you and the only time it mattered was now, wouldn’t that be enough? As a parallel, if you, and only you, were in excruciating pain at this moment, would that not be important…if only to you? The same parallel could be made about intense pleasure. At the very least, aren’t “you” enough to matter?

All of that said, a proper narrative consists of three primary components: 1. Past-Where did you come from? 2. Present-Who are you now/what are you doing 3. Future-Where are you headed and who will you become? Of course, you don’t live in a vacuum. You are surrounded by family, friends, strangers, and enemies perhaps that help make up and add nuance to your narrative. For the moment, we’ll just focus on the individual…you.

One of the most exciting parts of this narrative is number 3; the future. This is the only component of your narrative that is not fixed. That is where 2014 comes in to play. What is your desire for this coming year? What do you want to do? Who would you like to become? You can make an impact on your own life and situation. I hope that you do not feel certain impotence toward yourself. If so, I hope you will realize that you have a great deal of power in your own life, situation, and mental state. Own it.

So, this is our assignment… Take a blank sheet of paper and pen or open up a new Word file. Write, “1. Where have I come from?” and leave ample space. Next write, “2. Who am I and what is my life now?” Leave some space. Last write, “3. What do I want to accomplish and who do I want to become in 2014?” Leave some more space. Spend a day ruminating on these questions deeply. Don’t trouble yourself with 2015, a decade from now, or eternity…just 2014. None of that will exist until 2014 has, so one thing at a time. Tomorrow, fill in the blanks. Then, spend the year moving forward in the narrative of your own choosing, empowered and purposed.