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TexasDude's avatar

What is the central theme of your personal story?

Asked by TexasDude (25244points) September 6th, 2010

As a writer, I tend to think in terms of themes, metaphors, plots, and morals-of-the-stories. Every character has a motive, a backstory, a goal… and every single thing they do and think builds up to some culminating point.

The more I observe people, the more I start to realize that people’s lives fit into this story paradigm so easily. No one leads a typical life. Even the most mundane and boring individuals have some kind of back-story: some trauma, ideal, romance, or goal that, even if only subconsciously, continues to drive them to some form of conclusion, whether it would be considered ideal or not.

These hidden backstories often define the recurring themes of our lives. Think about it for a moment… the completely lovelorn individual likely had some kind of formative experience that created the state that they are currently in. Perhaps the person who always strives to be the hero is secretly trying to make up for some still-stinging failure or shortcoming.

For instance, I have a friend who everyone jokingly refers to as Jesus, because he is constantly making sacrifices for the benefits of others. He strives to be morally upright without being proselytizing, and everyone reveres him as the epitome of virtue among our peers. These themes of morality have come to characterize his existence, but anyone who truly knows him knows that he does it to atone for what he views as a sordid past.

That said, I’d say that the recurring theme of his life, his character is that of atonement or forgiveness.

So with this explanation in mind, in the story of your own life, how do you characterize yourself? What theme seems to recur in your existence, and do you know why it does?

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77 Answers

harple's avatar

I would charactarise myself as the please-giver… erm, someone who is always trying to please and make sure that others around me are happy.

I think it probably links back to my father dying when I was 3… Somewhere deep down I figure that if I can just make everyone happy, they won’t leave. (I know this isn’t the case, btw, but ho hum.)

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I believe that the theme of my life is learn how to help. I’ve been given talents and troubles, and through all the troubles, I’m learning to use my talents to help in whatever way I can. As an example, I have in the past volunteered at my library’s literacy center because I love reading. I started a blog about living positively with bipolar. And I act, bringing the theatrical arts to anyone who wants to watch.

Zyx's avatar

Disappointment, strength and thus tragedy. Anger. Negativity. Hope? Read from start.

TexasDude's avatar

@harple, sounds a lot like my situation

Your answer is also exactly what I was hoping for when I asked this. I was kind of afraid that what I was asking for wasn’t exactly clear. Thank you for sharing.

@hawaii_jake, so would you say that bipolar disorder was a sort of catalyst for you to become the way you are today? To be the positive force for change in the lives of others who may experience what you were able to overcome?

@Zyx, you’ve got to have strength in order to have hope. I take it you are the kind who gets beat up a lot, but you always manage to bounce back in some way?

ucme's avatar

Eternal optimist, just be the best that I can be & no regrets. Oh & don’t let the bastards (no offence:¬D) grind me down.

cookieman's avatar

Hard work, perseverance and cookies in the face of adversity.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard : Yes, I was taught as a child to think positively, and even though I have a disability, I can use it to help. It doesn’t have to be a hindrance necessarily. Don’t get me wrong; I would love not to have this disability. Still, I do. Might as well live with it to help others instead of wallowing in self-pity.

By the way, this is truly a great question.

tinyfaery's avatar

One constant existential crisis that leads me to both despair and bliss.

muppetish's avatar

I don’t know if there has been a central theme to my story so far, but I would classify myself as Loving and Sensitive (and I had to leave the room and wander around the house for a minute to think about this question for a while.) I think everyone is in want of (and in need of) love. There’s this intrinsic quality within me to love others. Sometimes I go looking for reasons not to care about people, but I cannot help wanting to help. I’m very open about my emotions (read: where them on my sleeve, often whether I want to or not) and am affected by the motions of everything around me.

I don’t know whether I’ve explained my self well enough. Thanks for creating such a thought-provoking question, though.

TexasDude's avatar

@ucme, I figured that’s what your answer would be! ;^)

@cprevite, “cookies in the face of adversity” seems to be a recurring theme here, that just proves my point. Everyone has some overarching struggle or “adversity” that oftentimes characterizes us, and we all have different ways of dealing with it. Thank you.

@hawaii_jake, thank you kindly. As an outsider, I would deem your theme to not be disability or even helping others, but triumph, because that is what you have made from your situation. The help you provide for others is the vehicle through which you achieve this.

@tinyfaery, I would go so far as to use your answer as a philosophical definition of life itself, actually. Thank you. I can relate.

@muppetish, no problem, and thank you. I know what you mean by wearing your emotions on your sleeve. I may come off on fluther like the tough guy sometimes, but I’m really the same way, so I can definitely understand where you are coming from. You say that helping others is an intrinsic quality in yourself… by that, do you mean that you have always been this way? Or was there some event that led you to be the way you are now?

ucme's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard God i’m so one dimensional. What a world, what a world!! ;¬}

muppetish's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard A bit of both, I think. Part of it definitely has to do with the way I was raised. My mother is one of those people. She believes everyone deserves an extension of kindness until they give you a reason to walk away. I think I modeled much of my self after hers when I was a kid. But there were events that solidified this quality, too. When I was in primary school, I was picked on and witnessed other kids being picked on. I wanted everyone to feel safe and nurtured.

That reminds me, I know just the character I am: The Listener. I’m always absorbing my surroundings. The observations I made as a child have left such a deep impact on who I am today. I continue to observe as much as I can wherever I go. It’s one of the few things I can do no matter what else changes.

TexasDude's avatar

@hiphiphopflipflapflop, so disillusionment, confusion, and absurdity? Do you have a hard time believing that you exist?

@muppetish, bingo. Just what I was shooting for. Thanks for sharing. :-)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I live to experience movie-like scenes in my life.

BoBo1946's avatar

He kept getting his ass kicked, but he never quit.

TexasDude's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, that’s another good way of looking at it. While the day to day rituals of toothrbrushing and idle sitting aren’t particularly interesting, there are those singular moments when everything fits together in that cinematic way. If we could watch our lives from the outside and pay special attention to the events that define us, I think we’d have very interesting movies/books…. perfect character pieces, because they’d be as real as real gets.

@BoBo1946, that’s the spirit. If you lived life just to quit, what would be the point? Thank you.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think mine would be perseverance, positive thinking, and helping other people. I always try to find the positives in every situation I’m put in and it helps get through the hard times. I enjoy helping others as much as possible and spread myself too thin sometimes with the things I do for others.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard my friend, life is tough. My old coach said many times, “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going!” It is not the problems we face in life, but how react to the problems. Having said that, I’ve my health. Those who are faced with cancer etc., then you really find out what you made of. Hope i never face that. Having my hip replaced soon is enough for now.

Cruiser's avatar

Does it really have to be that loud??

I love music and the louder the better and not just decibel loud, large loud! Music is so dynamic and I love to feel the music. Very few audio systems do justice to music and I like to tweak the sound to where you can close your eyes and feel every string vibrate along with the smack of the drum stick on the drum. Yes, I really do have to be that loud! ;)

TexasDude's avatar

@Seaofclouds, sounds like you and @muppetish are in the same boat. Thank you.

@BoBo1946, good luck with your hip replacement, my friend.

@Cruiser, I have no idea what you are talking about, but I’ll assume you are the music-guy, haha. Thanks!

GeorgeGee's avatar

“Can do”

TexasDude's avatar

@GeorgeGee, good. Thank you.

aprilsimnel's avatar

It’s not done yet, so I don’t know. Someone else will have to tease those themes out after I’m gone.

MissAnthrope's avatar

“They call me The Seeker/ I’ve been searching low and high/ I won’t get to get what I’m after/ Till the day I die”

TexasDude's avatar

@aprilsimnel, valid enough, but in your life so far, has there been any theme you can put your finger on?

@MissAnthrope, nice.

aprilsimnel's avatar

So far it’s learning to trust myself and learning to trust that I am a worthwhile human being, no matter what my biological family tried to get me to believe.

Haleth's avatar

Hm. If you made my life into a story, the theme would be the creative process. I don’t mean this just in my case- in art school I noticed it in just about everyone around me- but I love watching the interaction between events in real life and a creative project. The format might be a story-within-a-story; if so, expect tons of meta-humor.

lloydbird's avatar

As far as this site knows, ‘anonymity’.

Mostly.

TexasDude's avatar

@aprilsimnel, so would your learning process be kind of a struggle for you?

@Haleth, nice answer. I like your idea… can you build on it?

@lloydbird haha, nice.

kenmc's avatar

I’d say off the top of my head…

The strive for success despite a ridiculous sense of self-sabotage.

TexasDude's avatar

@boots, so yours is almost an existentialist theme. You keep pushing for some goal, despite the fact that you are almost doomed to make yourself not reach it? Some would call that pointless. I’d call it admirable. Thank you.

kenmc's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Existentialist is probably a good way to put it… With a touch of Dada and just a dash of dystopian futurism.

TexasDude's avatar

@boots, nice. Sounds like my last philosophy club meeting.

BoBo1946's avatar

thank you my young friend.

downtide's avatar

Alchemy. The art of transformation of a substance from one form to another. It seems apt.

Frenchfry's avatar

Takes a lickin and keeps on tickin.

janbb's avatar

Know thyself.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@janbb : Socrates would be proud.

the100thmonkey's avatar

Oddly enough, I was thinking about this today on the way home from work (although expressed in different terms).

I guess my answer would be puzzlement.

filmfann's avatar

Not that much different from Pinocchio.
Just the story of a good hearted, honest, non-competitive person constantly fighting of the temptations of less honest, more competitive people.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Black clouds. Bad luck seems to just follow me around in life.

Carly's avatar

My life is all about the consequences I constantly experience from lying cheating and stealing.
aka Bad Karma

YARNLADY's avatar

My Mom and Dad were right.

TexasDude's avatar

Great answers, guys. Thank you all.

@YARNLADY, right about what, if you don’t mind my asking?

faye's avatar

@harple almost wrote mine. My big brother was institutionalized when I was 4, my uncle who lived with us died when I was 11, and my dad when I was 13. I’ve been a nurse for 100 years and have put up with behavior from SO’s until the bitter end. Yep, the Pleaser. I even worry about making my kids mad!

the100thmonkey's avatar

@faye – 100 years?

That is a long time to be the pleaser. ;)

YARNLADY's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard—Most of what they tried to tell me, “what’s bothering me right now is not really that important”, “in time, you will get over it”, “you can’t control anyone but yourself”, “you choose how you feel, not anyone else”.

TexasDude's avatar

@YARNLADY, thank god they taught you positive lessons about life. Kudos to you (and them)

zen_'s avatar

Pain and love. Then kids. Love and Pain.

TexasDude's avatar

@zen_, sounds like a novel in the making. Thank you, sir.

zen_'s avatar

Sir my ass – it’s me, zensky. ;-)

TexasDude's avatar

Haha, I dig it.

talljasperman's avatar

the human condition and the quest for godhood…and humor, and take-out

TexasDude's avatar

@talljasperman, you should hook up with @cprevite in their quest for cookies.

talljasperman's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard I had home-baked cookies yesterday…nice and soft

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

This is such a bad week for me to answer this question. But, I’m gonna do it anyway.

If you had to find a central theme to my own life it’d be of redemption. I don’t know what the hell I’m redeeming, possibly paying my dues for a crappy past life. But, it’s led me to put as much good karma and peace back into the world as I can muster.

TexasDude's avatar

@py_sue you and my friend would get along well. Thanks for playing along.

TexasDude's avatar

@py_sue, no problem, and thank you!

Ron_C's avatar

The theme of my life…“Lucky Old Clumsy Bastard”
(Bastard in the derogatory sense, not the in the literal sense.)

TexasDude's avatar

@Ron_C, I like it. Thanks!

augustlan's avatar

The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Girl. I’ve had a ridiculously… interesting life for such a regular old person such as myself. I am who I am in spite of what I’ve lived through, mostly. I’m sure some things in my past have influenced me in subtle ways, but mostly… I just live through it and move on.

J0E's avatar

The tools to succeed, without the motivation to use them.

syz's avatar

My theme seems to be “doing my own thing”, which could also be called “not meeting expectations”. Growing up, my parents had certain expectations for me, and they still don’t understand why I don’t care about making the most money I can, rather than doing something I love or believe in. When I was married, I didn’t fit into the mold of homemaker/mother. I chose not to have children, and that confounded innumerable people. When I was single (divorced), I didn’t care if I was in a relationship or not, I enjoyed traveling on my own, eating on my own, being responsible for no one but myself. When I was lucky enough to meet someone wonderful, it didn’t matter to me that she was female, something that my family can’t comprehend. I guess I’m just contrary.

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

The central theme to my personal story is that I’m a hard worker, a man who takes good care of his family and provides for them, and who likes to reap the benefits of all his hard work, monetarily and emotionally.

TexasDude's avatar

@augustlan, so your theme would be something like persistence and “atypical-ness,” it seems. I like it :-)

@J0E, motivation seems like a common theme here. Thanks a lot!

@syz, I wouldn’t call you contrary. I’d call you “independent.” Thanks for sharing your story.

@MRSHINYSHOES, I believe it. It certainly seems that way! Thank you.

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Ahh, thank you my friend. Though there have been times in my 34 year-old life that have truly tested my strength, toughness, and the “fight” in me. I think you know what I mean buddy…...ahem…...lol….sigh ;)

TexasDude's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES, I think I have an idea, man.

delirium's avatar

Being a positive influence and guide to the potential of the people around me. Strength and the notion that I can deal with whatever challenges I confront and even if I don’t come out on top I know that success is not defined by your victories but by what you take away from the battle.
I constantly am on an active mission to improve myself.
I want to make the world better for me having been in it… Literally. I will not be a waste of resources.

Much of this stems from the sad fact that I attempted suicide five-ish years ago. I chose my survival then, after a number of unsuccessful attempts, because killing myself would have beenthe ultimate selfish act. It is a waste of everything that was invested in me. I realized my purpose that day. I have a tattoo on my thigh that is a promise to myself that I’ll never do anything so selfish ever again. (Getting medicated for the depression has helped on that front.)
My offshoot theme is to add color, delight, and beauty to life so people can see things the way I do and understand the joy that I find in it.

TexasDude's avatar

@delirium, that’s a great answer. I have no doubts about the value of what you have contributed to the world, and I think “strength,” “persistence,” and maybe even “survival” would all be good terms for your “story,” if we are putting them in verbal form. Thank you.

Berserker's avatar

I think that my central theme is wanting to live/exist somewhere else, like in another world. I keep creating worlds in my head that I’d like to be in. Thing is these are based on the real world, but without any of the stuff I don’t like. (you know, like the idea of heaven lol) It’s kind of stupid if you think about it, but I have been doing this for such a long time, ever since I was little. So I doubt it’s based on real life experiences or trauma, but those things certainly don’t help, as they’ve furthered the desire for me to retreat in my imagination, as I got, and get, older. When I’m in a hospital bed shitting myself, I’m pretty sure I’ll still be doing it.

I keep making myself into something either epic, hardcore or at least, slightly impressionable, like a supreme martial artist, a fallen angel that destroys God, and therefore, all existence, or at least someone who makes tons of money tapdancing to Viking folk songs. Thing is, I’m none of what I think is awesome. And by that I don’t mean all the fantasies I have just presented, but those are like, a defense mechanism that helps me escape from having to think of what I could plausibly be, in this day and age. And by plausibly being, I don’t mean I want to actually destroy everything nor do I think I can, I’m not that fucking crazy, but I suspect that those types of fantasies are some primitive means of me denying whatever potential I might have in being or doing something practical because it seems hopeless to me, other than letting alcoholism deal with it. Mostly it just means I’m lazy and a little braindead and can’t, or have no wish to, deal with shit. So I guess the theme of my story is like, how do I put this, my inadequacy to be practical in anything that surrounds me. Whether that’s me being the last kid in kindergarten to learn to tie her shoes or that’s me today thinking that mitochondria is superior to man, even if I got that out of a video game, I just seem to keep tripping everywhere I go, and it has always been that way. If I tried to kill myself I’d probably trip and fail.

So now either people all think I’m all emo or tryin’ to make myself bare the horns of the black sheep, but eh I’m just saying shit as it comes out, now that I’m drunk enough. :D

I named no themes or any central part you may have been asking for, at least I’m pretty sure I didn’t but I do what I do what I can, man. And that is, mostly, escaping in a world filled with the undead. Not because I can cheesily relate, but because it’s stuff I like. So I guess my theme is escape, alcohol and sleeping in. Or like, no self esteem or something, stuff like that. When I read this 20 hours from now I hope I won’t be too embarrassed lol.

(spellcheck ftw lulz)

TexasDude's avatar

@Symbeline, holy shit, that was almost poetic. You’d also probably be surprised to know that I can relate to you on this an awful lot. Instead of day-dreaming, writing is my outlet in that way. I live vicariously through my characters whereas you live vicariously through your fantasies, it seems. Interesting stuff!

Berserker's avatar

You being a writer, I can imagine that yes, your outlet does cater to the situation I described for myself. I’m guessing a few people are like that, although I can’t quite figure out if artistic mediums are emotional expression or, people like us living their fantasies in some indirect way. Or maybe it’s both.
I do like drawing, but it doesn’t provide much of what I wrote above. Anyways, when your book comes out I’m totally getting it. :) Hope it makes it all the way out here in Canada.

TexasDude's avatar

@Symbeline, if it doesn’t make it to Canada, I’ll totally mail you a copy. I just finished the rough draft last night, actually. Here’s a link if you can’t wait that long ;-)

TheObjector's avatar

I believe I am the problem-solver. I help other people, i make them laugh or be their ‘psychologist’ per se. But this is only because I don’t know what is wrong with me and I don’t want to know so I don’t let anyone know about my problems, it’s resulted in be blocking them out completely however and now even if i could find someone to talk to about it, it would be incredibly hard as I feel as if i don’t have any problems.

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