There is an immense proliferation of novels geared towards a prepubescent and college audience with the exact same plot: Awkward outsider meets attractive and charming member of the opposite sex and awkward outsider discovers they are secretly “The Chosen One” destined to do great deeds. Oh, and if the Chosen One is female, there’s often two-guys vying for her love triangle attention.
You don’t need to take a high school psychology class to understand the simple reason for the appeal of this story. We all feel like awkward outsiders at that time in our lives, we all wish that we shall become something special, and we pray we never resign ourselves to settling for a mundane existence. In short, we hope to accomplish great things and we fear to become our parents. Because goodness knows, they never accomplished anything! All they ever did was give up all of their dreams when they had you. As for the love triangles – obviously those stories are all written for horny virgin teenage girls who would love to have multiple studpuppies fighting over them.
This is why I hate those stories.
We honestly believe in what we read. Some of us do. The magicians. The witches. The wizards. Those of us who possess the power to conjure these realms. Those of us who have always been meant to change the world by melding two universes together. We honestly think we can become mutant superheroes. Every kid awaiting puberty thinks maybe, just maybe, our generation will be the first. Maybe the mutations have already begun. Maybe we will be one of the illustrious “Chosen Ones” and maybe these makebelieve stories aren’t so makebelieve after all! Maybe these authors are in on the secret. Maybe they are trying to tell us something. Maybe we are being sent these stories by the universe, because the universe is trying to prepare us for something. For the change. For the great convergence of that world shifting moment.
I have a confession to make. I still believe. I still hope. Sometimes, I read a book or watch a movie and I think, “Oh, please. Let me be part of that world. Let me become something great. Let me make a difference.” Maybe the universe is trying to prepare me for my own moment of becoming a superhero.
Or maybe not.
Maybe the world is just full of crappy writers who can’t come up with an original story idea! There’s no clandestine secret society trying to prepare the new generation for their eminent destiny. No. All these stories being repeated is not a sign of some impending fate. There’s no meaning behind it at all! Just a bunch of dumbass braindead hacks churning out trite novels and screenplays and the same pathetic comic books because they don’t have two atoms of originality in their bodies.
When you begin to realize that, it really starts to piss you off.
When you reach high school and discover puberty didn’t leave you with a single superpower – other than needing 30 minutes to take a shower – you feel furious. You were betrayed. They promised you something! Well, maybe they didn’t promise, but they sure implied it! And they didn’t deliver.
Then in high school, you never meet that supernatural guide. That new girl or new guy never moves in to your neighborhood. The mysterious stranger doesn’t start attending your school. No one shows up to tell you about your otherworldly family lineage. You never get a letter. By the time you reach college, you find out nothing is going to happen at all.
Turns out you won’t grow up to be a superhero or a Chosen One. The old wizened mentor will never show up to teach you the ancient ways of your ancestors. You’ll never get the girl who is out of your league. The hot guy will never talk to you. The Lady of the Lake will not bequeath you Excalibur. The spaceships aren’t going to come and pick you up. You won’t find the Golden Ticket and you won’t inherit the chocolate factory.
And, goddamnit, that pisses you off!
You are not The Chosen One after all.
The superpower mutations are not starting with your generation.
You’re going to end up just like your parents.
And like your grandparents before them.
What the hell is so special about that?
Why did those stories make all those promises?
One day you wake up and realize that you’re just like everyone else. They lied to you. And that’s not what bothers you. What bothers you is knowing you will always be like everyone else. That this will never change.
That’s the worst part of all. Knowing those promises will never come true. Knowing they were always lies.
That is one of the moments when childhood ends. Some say it ends when you learn you will die. Others say it ends when you suffer that first broken heart. And of course no one ever wants to mention how quickly childhood ends in those who were touched in a way that was far too intimate, at an age far too young. The truth is, no one event ever kills your childhood. Rather it withers slowly through a culmination of disappointments that eat away at your innocence. In moments like the first phonecall that someone has died. That icy telephone voice, when a different gear snaps into the world and nothing ever moves the same again.
There is one great glimmer of hope in all this though.
That is for you to become your own Chosen One. For you to take charge and define your existence. To defiantly cast aside those shackles of mediocrity the world has in mind for you. The moment you refuse to be bound by their expectations, the moment you become the champion of your own legend, you can transform your life.
I can promise you two things right now. I can promise you that everyone who considers those thoughts will aspire to achieve them. And I promise that most of you shall fail.
There is no shame in that failure. Mediocrity is not a crime nor a sin. We can’t all be superheroes. Otherwise, who will the superheros have to save? We need the vanilla beige of mediocrity in the world. And if fate has decreed that be your destiny, wear the mantle with pride. There is no humiliation in living a simple and banal life. You mundanes and neurotypicals live days blessed with a serenity the chosen souls will never possess. You can shut off your mind and watch Monday Night Football and grab a beer. You’re lucky. You never have to worry about waking up at 3am to write down the next chapter of the novel. You never need to stay up for 20 hours on the film set. You’re never haunted by the circuitboard schematics when you go see your kids school play. You can just come home from working 9 to 5 and shut off your brain. That’s a privilege. There is no dishonor in following that path. We can’t all soar or the skies would be a danger to us all. Some of us need to keep our feet on the ground and if you be destined to remain the salt of the earth, then bless you. Be happy with your fate. There is just as much honor and glory in a humble life as there is in a spectacular one.
For the rest of you…
You must jump from the cliff and hope you sprout wings. If you aren’t brave enough or crazy enough to make the leap, you’re going to need to do the walk of shame back down the mountain. For although there be no shame in mediocrity, there is certainly shame in boasting of dreams you never have the courage to pursue.
Fly. The worst that can happen is that you die trying.
And in that defining moment of skyrocketing or squishing, you will find the most powerful realization of all – that the reality they insist you live in does not have to be the one you chose. You can defy the very perceptions they have ingrained in you. You can rise above their reality and never need to look back. And even if you fail, at least you made the attempt to break free.
That is the promise I seek to teach in my stories. I’ll never lie to you with false hopes of Chosen Ones and swordwielding mentors. I’ll never fill you with expectations that a sorcerer may appear on a particular birthday. Instead, I will deliver on my promises by sharing the virtues of tenacity and perseverance. But I temper that with a warning: There’s an excellent chance you won’t be the hero. You may accomplish nothing but defeat. Despite what storybooks tell you, the mere pursuit of your dreams is never a guarantee of success. I will not spraypaint over the horseshit, just to make you think the streets are paved with gold. They aren’t. They’re brick, and cracked, and covered with horseshit. I won’t guide you down a path of lies and claim it’s nothing but primroses. On the contrary, I’ll be the one to tell you the truth – watch your step, because the road you’re on is full of horseshit and flanked by thornbushes. But if you find the bravery to step outside your door and you make it down that path, if you navigate the dark road, ah, the rewards shall be real.
My stories will never seduce you into thinking you’re The Chosen One.
I won’t dash your dreams by filling you with the wishes to be that soul.
Instead, I will show you how to stop dreaming the dreams of others, and point you to the road where your own can come true.
Wear boots. You’re gonna need ’em.