Growing Up #6: Life is a Third Person Limited Perspective

I learned something fun and for an ethereal moment a marvelous thing that day: life, as we know, is a third-person limited perspective.
 
I was at a writing workshop this past week. We began by talking about building characters and moved into writing the narrative of the story. We were handed out a task to write a paragraph each in the First Person Limited narrative (the famous I character), Third Person Limited narrative (follow one single character’s Point of View) and the Third Person Omniscient narrative (follow two characters at most).
 
I walked out of the classroom and sat down in the not-too-dark canteen table to type my paragraphs. Inchoate questions and confusion began running like wild horses in my mind.
 
What is a narrative? How do I decide what my character sees? Where do I get my character?! Can my characters have a conversation with someone? Who?
 
I had heard these terms, but when I found myself surrounded by writers far more knowledgeable, I was nervous, unsure of what I knew. I felt out of place. The many literary terms coming my way made little sense to me.
 
I knew the First-person narrative, the famous I character -Dickens’ David Copperfield, the Third Person omniscient – God watching everything from above. But I got stumped at the Third Person Limited narrative.
 
If I follow a single character, can I have dialogues and conversations in the story? I thought.
 
I knew I had to ask this question. I had to muster the courage, despite all the feelings of not belonging that had surged.
 
I asked.
 
The answer was yes. ‘We do not know what the other characters are thinking, but our character can react to the dialogues,’ the instructor said.
 
‘So can we say life, as we know, is a third-person limited perspective?’ I immediately asked as the question formed in a microsecond. I was not sure if it made any sense.
 
The answer was, filled with some slight giggles, a yes. ‘That’s the reason confusions and misunderstandings happen, no?’ he added.
 
For a moment it felt like I had traveled outside of my body, I had myself become a character in a story – a character that could never figure out what other characters were thinking, but could merely react as a result.
 
For some odd reason this realization soothed my being. It was a sudden manifestation that I was merely a character in this world of million stories, or a sense of relief in knowing that none of us carried the capacity or the burden to fully understand every minute thought that goes into the mind of the other.
 
It could have simply been the euphoria of being able to ask a question and get an answer.

Reflecting back on the week gone by since Saturdays are perfect for overthinking, and capturing some of it into words. Growing Up, a series, about the growing pains and confusions of growing up. (Too many growing, I get it!). Every Saturday. 

Growing Up#4: By deFault or By deS!gN

I said I’d be writing every Saturday about growing up – the growing pains, the dumb decisions, the indecisiveness, maybe half of the parties, and a quarter of the youth. But here I go breaking the chain, right in the fourth week. And I have a superb reason: sometimes an entire Saturday is not enough for overthinking, and it spills on to the Sunday and even Monday. So here it is on a Monday.

Last Saturday I was having a heartfelt conversation with a friend about growing up (half of my conversations are about it these days), where she shared a brilliant snippet of growing up by default or by design. I was intrigued. Some of us it seem live by default, do things by default. We concluded that necessarily isn’t wrong. It’s worked out well for some. And then there are some other who live by design, and this doesn’t necessarily make them superior either.

In the words of Adam Grant (someone I have harbored the secret dream of meeting in person):

Don’t ask which is better Stanford or Harvard? Ask where you fit better.

The idea of living life by default, where we live the narrative arc as suggested by the world – education, marriage, work, and the idea of living life by design where we create our own path, neither is better. Borrowing from Adam Grant’s idea, it is where do we, where do I, fit better.

But I have a further question: how do I know which one is for me? Well, I guess I’ll just have to follow the stars for now. Here’s what Nicola Yoon has to say about stars, from The Sun Is Also A Star:

I remind myself that stars are more than just poetic. If you need to, you can navigate your way by them

Till next week!


Growing Up, a short snippet series every Saturday, because Saturdays are perfect for overthinking, maybe Sundays too and Mondays as well. 

On Happy Endings

Oh I love happy endings. Who doesn’t? They are nice and sweet, leave you with the fuzzy warm feeling inside. They make you oh-so-hopeful. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. But its representation as the final and fatal is likely to be less than sweet at times.

The one thing straight forwardly wrong with the happy ending representation is how it overshadows the entire process, the journey. In an on going universe nothing truly is final. It’s a journey.

Happy ending is an outcome, of actions we take. But how often do actions know where they are headed to?

This representation of happy endings as the all-end-goals have us seeking for resolutions in the most desperate of situation, and we’d get sad when the ending isn’t pretty neat before the credits roll. Of course we’d be sad, we have projected a piece of ourselves into the character on screen, or on the page. Loose ends pinch us, because we have a lot of loose ends all over ourselves.

Over focused happy endings take the charm away from the entire process, tying our actions to an ultimate outcome which is supposed to be ‘happy’ and an ‘end’. But think of a time when you couldn’t take the next step itself. How would you imagine the end, no matter how happy? You’re in between moments, soaking in time. Maybe there’s no need to tie the ends sometimes, maybe they cannot be tied at times.

We’re here in between, in the middle of a nasty process of trying, failing, learning, leaving, moving, grieving, overcoming; in between transitions waiting to take the next step. Maybe we already have, maybe we haven’t. It isn’t in the end.