She Edited Her Story

(Credit: Lisa Congdon)

(Credit: Lisa Congdon)

At the height of her popularity, I hated Mariah Carey. Like fake gagging “OMG who would even listen to this,” type of dislike. Normal tween responses I suppose. But even at that tender age, there was an inkling of doubt at the base of my little spine. If you had asked me with a promise - nay, a pinky swear - to never tell anyone else I would have admitted that Fantasy is a darn catchy tune and that my overall opinion of Mariah was pretty much neutral. 

So why the outward negativity? Because Amy (name changed to protect the anti-pop star identity) told me to.

We were best friends and spent much of our time, in school and out, together.  As with any young friendship, there were certain unquestioned dynamics. I was quiet and bookish, she was artsy and cool, and we both had pretty sophisticated views of ourselves. There was no outward “you can’t be my friend if you like this music” declaration. Nothing so overt as that. And I liked to think that I was not that impressionable. But I ceded on this one point. Amy thought Mariah Carey was dumb, so I did too. 

This “fact” was added to my story. I’m Molly. I like to dance. I’d eat chicken fingers for every meal if I could. I hate Mariah Carey. 

Our stories get more complex as we grow. Characters and plot twists come and go. Glitter is released and we can all make our own conclusions about that. What’s important, I’ve come to realize (in this wise old age of 29), is our ability to edit that story. Proofread, check the facts, re-write, cut and expand. Submit to publisher? Go on tour? Make New York Times list? This metaphor has it’s limits. 

There’s also some danger in writing ahead, especially if you’re using a Sharpie. At some point in high school I made a very set plan for my future. It went something like “go to college, go straight to grad school for Music Therapy, go straight to work with veterans suffering from PTSD.” Great story, right? The problem was I ignored the signs along the way that said maybe it wasn’t for me. Maybe I shouldn’t pin myself down. Maybe I should look outside the book. It took a while to rewrite that chapter. I have a few working titles for it: “Maybe I Should Have Been A Computer Major,” or “No, Really, A Liberal Arts Degree Is Totally Worth That Amount Of Debt, Stop Laughing,” or “College Is Nothing Like Real Life So Enjoy It While You Can And Eat As Much Of The Dining Hall Cereal As Possible That Stuff Is Expensive."

We all get caught up in the “supposed tos”. We’re supposed to do this. We’re supposed to enjoy that. It’s when we look into WHY we’re supposed to that things can get uncomfortable. Am I making this choice because it feels right, because it’s what I want, or because that’s what my story dictates? Who wrote this excerpt? Would I disappoint others if my story proved false? 

Over the past few years I’ve made a lot of edits. Some huge (career change, diet overhaul), some small (YOU GUYS! SWEET POTATOES ARE DELICIOUS! WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS!) Some were harder to overcome than others. That voice saying, “I can’t do that,” is loud and so sure of itself. There can be risk involved, especially when the choice comes down to happiness over uncertainty. But you know what, kiddlywinks? It’s worth it. Now, I hear that voice as a challenge. Tell me I can’t, I’ll show you I can.

I backspaced over “I’m Molly, I work in an administrative job I dislike because I’m decent at it and I don’t know how to do anything else, I’m sick all the time but I don’t know how to change it, and I think sweet potatoes come from a can and are totes gross.” It now reads, “I’m Molly, I work in a career I love doing something that gives me a lot of satisfaction (and also I’m really good at it), I’m healthy because I changed my attitude about food and exercise, and would eat sweet potatoes (not chicken tenders) at every meal if I could. And I’m ambivalent about Mariah Carey."

Molly Kerrigan