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Life is an Ocean

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A random ocean
Photo by Guy Podjarny

A few weeks ago, I went with friends to watch a play titled Live to Tell: A Proposal for The Madonna Jukebox Musical. As far as fringe theatre goes, this is a good one. There was a good story, the acting was superb, and there was not a single time I glanced at my watch awkwardly (something that happens to me in the fringe theatre quite a lot).

It’s about a writer trying to pitch a Madonna musical while living with HIV. I’m not a fan of writers writing about writers. I firmly believe that if the only main character you can come up with is a writer, you need to take a break from writing and go do some living.

The discussion of living with HIV, however, was intriguing. There was talk about the medication, side effects, and the feeling of living with a ticking time bomb. I have to say that I didn’t feel that dealing with these issues is necessarily different from dealing with, say, mental health issues and/or general ageing.

At one point, he shows a graph of a story arc, comparing it to a graph of HIV progression. He thought he was at the end of the story, the stable part, but it turns out that because of the side effect and the need to change medication, he might have to go back to the beginning. And I thought about how life isn’t at all like a story, definitely not while we live it.

For one thing, you know how long a story is before you start reading it. Which also means you know whether you are at the beginning, the middle, or the end. In life, you don’t know how long you have, let alone whether you’ll have a pyramid or a seven-point plot. You don’t even know if you’re living a comedy or a tragedy.

It’s disheartening when you think you’ve overcome something and you find that your work has only just begun. But I think it comes from our idea that life is linear, that there’s an end goal, and that if you work hard enough, you’ll win at life.

Last week, I wrote about the ebbs and flows. Really, life isn’t so much like a train track that goes from A to B. It’s more like the ocean. The waves come and go. Sometimes it’s stormy, and sometimes it’s calm. And there are deep, strong currents that can take you way off where you thought you were going. You can have a goal to sail from one shore to another, or you can just drift around, but neither changes the ocean itself.

Does that mean we shouldn’t have goals? I don’t think so. I think it means that maybe we should worry less about the journey and enjoy the sound of the waves a little more.


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