“The same way that you are the main character of your story, you are only a secondary character in everybody else’s story.” ~ Don Miguel Ruiz
One of the first teachings Don Miguel Ruiz imparted on me was the understanding that every single human being is an artist, born to create. The greatest art we each create during our time, is the story of our life. This learning, though profound, took time to come to understand. My life is really just a story, created by me and told from my perspective. It is not even real, it is merely my version of reality. In my story, I created the main character of Laura. Following Miguel’s teachings, this character I have created represents everything I know and changes and evolves as I learn and grow.
My story was initially created as I was growing up. During that time, everybody had opinions about who I was and who I should be. My parents, grandparents, teachers and friends all had images of who I was and all wanted something different from me. Everyone wanted me to be what they thought I should be and as most children do, I tried hard to live up to those ideals. At some point though, I came to the realization that I had different ideas about who I wanted to be. It was then that I began to question and challenge the norms and expectations imposed on me. I grew up in a time of questioning the establishment, so it was not unusual that I would create my story differently from the one created for me by others.
During my schooling years, I was in accelerated classes throughout elementary, middle and high school. I was a straight A student, weeded out and placed in what today would be labelled a gifted program. Yet, as a girl, I had to sit through career classes geared toward secretarial work and take cooking and sewing classes to prepare me to be a housewife. I was for all intents and purposes invisible, never asked to contribute my thoughts about issues, merely asked to memorize and spit back what I learned. My parents hoped I would attend college like my two brothers before me, but were also saving for my wedding fund. For all my academic success, I was the most disengaged student, especially in my high school years. Yes, I maintained a high average and was thought of as the least likely to struggle. But, I realize now I was just a passenger in someone else’s version of my story. I never felt engaged or empowered by school, or my studies. Rather, I took in what was offered passively and gave back what others wanted from me.
When I got to college, I felt something start to shift in me. It was my literature classes, as well as sociology and history that ignited in me desire to take back control of my story. I was asked to interpret and contribute my thoughts on what I read, to discuss with others in ways we never had before in my previous schooling. It was then that I found my voice and the main character Laura took a different fork in the road. You see, Laura was not born to be passive, she was born to be a leader and I alone had the artistic control over the creation of her story. The shy, passive girl had reclaimed her place as the main character in the story of her life. No longer would she try to live up to the expectations of others, for she had her own expectations and the ability to work toward living up to those.
Throughout various times in my life, I have lost my way and my realization that I am Laura, the main character of this life. I have let the opinions of secondary characters impact my thinking and forgot that they are merely the main characters of their own story, not mine. Now, as I process the loss of my mother, I am revisiting the story of Laura through family photos, letters and memories. Sometimes, I don’t recognize this character I’ve created. Sometimes, I still feel the pain of some of the paths she’s walked. Most days, I wonder, as I reread this story, how much of it would I change, if I could. But today, I know that all I have is this moment to pick up my pen and begin again adding to the story of Laura, for it is time to begin creating the next chapter.