“You cannot go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Reading about a new series I started watching, it is mentioned that one of the characters “is the tetartagonist” of the series. Huh? I have never heard of this word, so I once again ventured into the rabbit hole that is the Internet, unsure of when I would be coming back. Hopefully, this search should not take longer than a few minutes, or so I told myself. In case you ever wanted to know, it turns out the characters in a narrative have assigned names, originating from Ancient Greek.
Protagonist means “one who plays the first part, chief actor”, and is the main character of the story. The Deuteragonist is the second actor or the second most important actor in the narrative, Tritagonist is the third actor, Tetartagonist is the fourth actor, Pentagonist is the fifth actor, and so on. There is also the Antagonist, who is the main nemesis of the Protagonist, but we’ll get to that later.
The mystery of the word that had puzzled me had now been solved. However, now I thought about this order and ranking of various characters in a novel. Our lives are a novel, so what is our position in our own lives? At this point everyone will jump up and declare that of course, they are the protagonist! However, let me point out a few counter arguments.
The Protagonist of a story makes the key decisions, and consequently, experiences the results of those decisions. It is also the character who faces the most daunting obstacles. It is as a result of these trails, however, that the protagonist’s strengths and weakness will be revealed. Do you see where I am going with this?
Based on this definition, are you making key decisions about your life, merely coasting along or following others’ plans? Are you facing difficult obstacles or are you staying within the safe and known? Are you exposing your weakness and strengths or are you hiding them? Instead of playing the main lead, you may be playing one of the secondary characters, you could be playing the antagonist with self-sabotage behaviors, or you could even be playing the Chorus, which only comments on the story, but never participates.
Making decisions is scary because we don’t know what the consequences will be. Fear of the unknown is real, and the modern world presents many safety nets and auto pilots (at least until recently) which allow us to move along in society without having to make choices. Someone recently told me that when we make a choice to do something, and then it becomes true, it’s infinitely powerful to our self-confidence because we were cocreators of the outcome! That’s like being the author of one of the chapters of the novel! You decide what will happen and how it will happen! And when you write a meaningful chapter, you can then write another and so on. I can’t think of anything greater than being the architect and designer of the important chapters of our lives!
Facing obstacles is another complicated issue which we tend to avoid. Human beings will tend to choose the familiar, even though that approach has never worked in getting us what we want and deserve. When difficult situations present themselves, the easiest thing to do is to do nothing. We find distractions that do not let ourselves see within ourselves. Or we procrastinate, staying in “learning mode” for our entire lives, instead of going for it. The sad part is that we don’t realize that the insurmountable mountain in front of us may not be so big after all, or that after some time, we may become pretty good climbers. If we keep facing difficult obstacles, there will come a day when we can confidently declare “I can do this!” because we are sure of our abilities, mindset and will.
Humans are complex beings, no one is perfect, we all have strengths and weaknesses. We all know this, and yet, we tend to only present to the world our talents and hide our deficiencies. At some point growing up I decided I was not creative, so I stopped trying to participate in any art or music related activities. I concentrated on math and science, where I would do better. The value that I bring to my relationships with friends and family has nothing to do with my talents; they would have accepted me either way. And opening ourselves to doing what we are not great would open areas of our mind that should be explored. One of my intentions with writing is to explore this creative side of me, and it is something which we all can do in our unique way. And the beauty of it, it does not have to be perfect. There is only one you, with all your experiences, opinions, ideas, so share them with the world.
Be the PROTAGONIST of your own life. Make those key decisions that will change your life and that of those around you. Be ready to face those difficulties that will show up. And when those weaknesses are exposed, own them and keep going. Win or lose, at least you tried! I recently read this wonderful quote: “There are no unique messages. There are only unique messengers.” Let yours shine and write your great ending.