Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I'll Probably Be Embarrassed I Wrote This Later

In less than two weeks, I'm going to be starting seminary. This marks a significant shift in my life. For the last ten years, late August has meant preparing to go to UCONN (four years as a student, six as a campus minister). Even though I feel confident that God has me where He wants me, there is still part of me that wishes I was going back for another round.

At the risk of sounding incredibly narcissistic, I'm going to admit that sometimes I think of my life as some kind of TV show, and every school year is the start of a new season. I imagine that there is an audience to my life that speculates as to which characters will play significant roles in the coming season and which ones will fade into the background or disappear entirely. I imagine that press releases go out in the summer, giving hints as to what the coming year holds. Last year's releases would have said things like, "Stacer and Dave have both renewed their contracts as regulars" and "Jeremy has been cast as a frequent guest," and "Jenni will remain a series regular, despite being in Providence." They would have hinted at surprises, like, "Next season will include guest appearances from an old friend" and "Certain members of Freethinkers will become series regulars starting at mid-season."

I don't think the TV show that is my life has a theme song, but during the first couple minutes of every episode the names of the series regulars flash, one-by-one, in the bottom right corner. It takes awhile to work through them because there are so many people involved. Some of them are very important to the story and retain regular billing, even though they only appear every five episodes or so. Other characters play a significant role but are mysteriously uncredited.

Another thing that happens during the summer is that new cast photos are released, all carefully staged and airbrushed. The audience reacts to who's there and who isn't, who looks older and who doesn't, changes in hairstyle and that sort of thing. Some characters who were once very popular with the audience have fallen out of favor. Others who were once despised or misunderstood are now appreciated. And me? Well, I'm not sure how they feel about me.

Wait! Where's Desmond??
When a TV show gets to the sixth season or so, it stops being a novelty and a lot of the people who were initially very impressed with it become impossible to please. Even when a good episode comes along, they end up giving halfhearted praise: "That was good," they say, "but it just didn't have the same magic as the 2nd and 3rd seasons." If a show lasts until its 8th season, there's always a significant number of people crying out to "just let it die." I usually disagree with these people, but that's beside the point.

When I was entering my ninth season at UCONN, I imagined my audience saying the things most audiences say at that point in the series: "I haven't enjoyed this show very much since the sixth season" and "This show jumped the shark about a year ago."  Not everyone felt this way, of course, but the audience members who did were quite vocal. 

There are some shows that manage to survive and thrive long past the normal expiration date, but most audiences start to lose interest once the series nears the decade mark. If the show doesn't develop or change, people get bored. If it changes, people get upset because they want it to be like it was before. It's a catch-22.

Just to be clear, I don't actually think I'm the center of the universe. I know my life doesn't have an audience in the way I'm describing, nor do I assume it is interesting enough to warrant one. Excluding God, there isn't really an audience out there - there's just one in here, in me. The TV show of my life has a very low Nielsen rating. It only gets about 1/6,000,000,000 of the market. Advertisers beware.

Then again, I don't know if that's entirely true. If I say my TV show only gets 1/6,000,000,000 of the market, it implies that the other 5,999,999,999 are potential viewers. But they're not. They can't see my TV show. I can't see theirs. That's the way of things. As Aslan says to Shasta, "Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own."

My story, of course, isn't ending, but a significant incarnation of it is finished. My primary setting will no longer be UCONN, and that's a little hard for me to accept. On the TV show that takes place in Storrs, my character has been reduced to a guest star or occasional cameo. My name no longer flashes in the right-hand corner. This makes me a little sad, but I know I couldn't have returned for another season. I just couldn't have. It was time.

Here's to a new season and new surprises. And hopefully lots of appearances from old friends.

1 comment:

  1. Ryan this post is amazing! I love the movie sequence that played in my head as I was reading. I will need to come back and re-read, maybe even copy it and write my own version :D