Confession: I don’t like endings.
I’m enamored with storytelling that stretches itself out into multiple installments. Exciting stories that could potentially be developed and told forever are fascinating to me. For example, I’m probably the one and only person in the world who believes that Grey’s Anatomy or Criminal Minds, shows that have been on the air for over a decade already, could withstand airing a few more decades and still be just as entertaining as long as whoever is in charge continued doing them justice. And not just because those shows are great, but also because their writers are capable of transformative storytelling. When some of their main players, like Mandy Patinkin or Patrick Dempsey, decide they’re ready to move on, they’re still able to capture their audience and take them on a journey through what their world looks like without those people in it. I’ve always admired the ability to do that, to keep moving forward in the wake of something huge, and instead tell the story of what happens afterwards as well.
The same interest applies to me in real life. I would love to know what happens to people after I’m no longer in their lives. I especially love to find out what happens in the lives of people after the biggest stories of their lives. For years I have casually followed blogs belonging to people like Melissa Beck (who is a former cast member on the original New Orleans season of MTV’s The Real World) and Pamela Ribon (a book author and staff writer for ABC’s Samantha Who?) because I’m fascinated to see what their day-to-day lives are like away from or after their high-profile projects are all wrapped up. For Melissa especially, it’s been decades since her season of Real World and her other reality TV appearances have come to an end. She seems like a totally different person now, married and raising children in New York, and otherwise living a normal life out of the spotlight. Pamela (or “Pamie,” as she is popularly known on the Internet) chose a different route and is still working in Hollywood, having co-written last year’s Disney blockbuster Moana, and is currently working on the sequel to their popular Wreck-It Ralph. Both are perfectly valid lifestyle and career choices and both seem very happy with it all.
They also both perfectly illustrate just how wildly different our lives are shaped. Working in an office, mostly surrounded by women who are happily married with children or are single mothers, always surprises me. I’m a thirtysomething childless single guy who’s still a little bit of a child at heart and I do my job alongside women who are the same age but who are way more mature and who have it together, or are at least trying to get it together. They’re raising kids, they’re buying houses, and they’re being actual independent adults in this great big world! That still somehow blows my mind! When did people decide they wanted to get there and then actually get there? Sometimes it’s like I totally missed the memo! But then on the rare occasion that I go out and meet new people, I remember that I’m not alone. I remember that, in comparison, I’ve got it more together than most out there, which is a little bit terrifying. When exactly though did we stop dreaming about our lives and instead start waking up and realizing that this is our lives? And while I know that it’s never too late to start making your life better, am I too far behind the curve?
Nah. I’ll keep moving forward and doing what I’m doing because there’s always another story to be told. And quite frankly, trying to live the same life as someone else is a little bit sad. But it hasn’t stopped me from wondering about the struggles of a soldier returning from war, a lawyer who has decided to stop practicing law, or even about my former co-workers who have left the company for greener pastures. Life goes on. We aren’t just defined by our success or our notoriety.
So what defines you?