Life is not a script.
Inertia — Nº150
Most of us grow up expecting life to follow some invisible plan, as if we’re characters in a play progressing from one neatly plotted point to the next. Life can be fun and fluid and intimate. It can also hurt and be unglamorous, mundane, or straight-up exhausting. But most importantly, it isn’t pre-written. No one really prepares you for that.
My mother recently tried convincing me that having a car is only to go from A to B. For any car lover, that obviously isn’t going to go down well. I prefer to liken it to life’s own natural moments: owning a car is like crossing the threshold into adulthood, a definitive rite of passage. The open road is full of promise and possibility — if you can shoulder the burden that comes with it.
At first, you bask in the novelty of independence, similar to the excitement of turning 18 or starting university. No longer must you rely on others and fit into their schedules and constraints. It’s an exhilarating taste of freedom. But this liberation rides shotgun next to the sobering duty of caring for the machine that carries you, and much of what comes next can’t be anticipated: sudden breakdowns, regular and unavoidable maintenance, inspections, and repairs. The initial pride and excitement of ownership soon mellow into pragmatic upkeep.
You can feel the new world of autonomy, accountability, and even status, but it can drain you as fast as a car can guzzle gas. It intertwines with life because nothing can prepare you for sudden problems or change. So it represents learning self-sufficiency, awareness, and the consequences of lapsed attention. Life isn’t scripted to prepare you for that on cue; the what and when always looks different for everyone.
As Ava puts it, life is labour, and reality is frictionless for no one. You can’t always be prepared because life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes the time will fly with nothing left but the regret you’re now burdened with. Other times, it’s freeing and nourishing, and what comes with it is the feeling that this is what life is about.
We don’t all go through school, get a good job, find a partner and reside in a contemporary house with kids to retire happily ever after. Real life is far messier than that. I’ve been thinking about this as more people I know venture into unconventional paths; some are continually travelling or thinking about the next place to live, move to, or visit. Some don’t want kids — full stop. Some have taken their dream job while others dedicate themselves to designing their jobs and doing what they love every day, knowing it is damn hard.
The lack of ‘script thinking’ can be unsettling. We crave certainty or a reliable prediction about what the future holds and clarity on the right moves to make. For some of us, it can take years to make one or two to make a decision. For others, everything’s done and dusted before people even know about it. But the nature of life means there aren’t clear right and wrongs when charting our course.
And nature is what I believe to be the heart of life. It’s knowing you’re not ready for most things but balancing it despite that. Because avoiding difficulty means you’ll never open your own gifts. It’s easy to get stuck in the vacuum of nostalgia and desire, but what if we traded those for presence and fell in love with what exists now? It’s looking at yourself in the mirror and saying: here I am. This is my foundation. I am filled with good traits, bad traits, talents and learned skills, faulty narratives, and primal anxiety. I might not be proud of what I see yet or know what’s next, but only I can design where I go from here.