Everyone has their movie theater story. The woman who talked through the entire movie three rows behind you. The teenager texting on his bright screen. The kid who threw up.
My favorite personal experience involved those children’s shoes with the LEDs in them – the ones that light up red every time you take a step. Imagine that you’re sitting at a movie theater watching an entertaining movie. After a few moments you get lost in the experience. The room you’re sitting in slips away and you’re brought into the scene. You feel as if you’re actually in the story. You identify more with the protagonist than with yourself.
And then – out of the corner of your eye – you see a red flash to your left. You whip your head around and ask yourself “What’s going on? Is something wrong?” You see the same red flash again and start to piece it together: every time the little girl 5 or 6 rows over kicks the seat in front of her, her LED shoes light up red.
I thought my experience was bad until I realized what the poor guy in front of her was going though: flashes and kicks.
In fewer than 30 seconds I was pulled into the story of this movie and then ripped from it. I went from being me, Andrew Bellay, to being Harry Potter, back to being me again – a slightly more irritated version of myself actually.
We spend the vast majority of our waking time immersed in an incredibly convincing experience. The “movie-of-me” is so convincing that we don’t even notice it most of the time. We feel like we are Andrew or Harry, not like we’re playing Andrew or Harry (there are new books!). Personally, I try my best to remember that I’m an actor in my own movie. I try to not be 100% immersed all the time. I want to see that red flashing light off to my left.
Some people get uncomfortable thinking about their life as a movie, a play, or a game. But I feel empowered by the thought. When I remember that I’m the actor or player in the production of my life, I make smarter decisions, focus more on what really matters to me, and am happier. I feel like I have a greater perspective.
I’m of the opinion that we stand on the shoulders of giants (who stood on the shoulders of giants too). We should not only benefit from the work of those who came before us, but we should also learn from their experiences. The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware has a self-explanatory title and contains rather uncomfortable findings:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Your life is like a movie (and you’re the star). Don’t get so caught up in the action of life that you forget who’s writing the script. The beginning and the end are fixed: You’re born and then you die. The middle part is yours to design. So design it intentionally and thoughtfully. Because if you don’t, someone else will.