The one Doctor Who line that made me reassess my life
Even Harry Potter didn’t have such a profound effect on me (bless J.K. Rowling for my childhood). At one point, I even considered getting a tattoo of it on my arm as a reminder.
Back in 2010, I’ve never even heard of Doctor Who. It was an ex-boyfriend that introduced it to me. He made sure that I tune in at 8:30pm on Thursday and watch, what I now understand as the British iconic series.
When I finally got around to watching it, the episode was already half way through and all I could think was how comically lego-like the Daleks looked. Wait, is that a toilet plunger as its main weapon? What on earth am I watching?
The next episode I watched was much better. I still didn’t really understand the whole Doctor Who thing. But it gave me something to do on a Thursday night.
Each week presented something different. Each week added to the overarching storyline as well as the episode itself. Each week, I found myself drawn into the narrative and the quirky character known as the Doctor and his trusty companion Amy Pond.
It was the end of the first season with the 11th Doctor that those fateful lines were spoken.
We’re all stories in the end, just make it a good one, eh?
I can’t quite remember what the exact story itself is anymore — the arcs, the episode details, what happened or who was in it. But the words stuck with me. No show or book has ever done that to me before — except one other by French Philosopher Jean Rousseau.
Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.
— Jean Rousseau
The combination of these two lines exploded in my brain. Over time, their impact started to manifest itself in my daily life choices, culminating in the act of moving out from my previously toxic mother’s house.
The 11th Doctor did have it right — we are all stories in the end. How we are remembered is based on the things we’ve done, the people we’ve influenced and help, and an array of decisions that led us to be where we are.
Over time, I’ve come to realize that we can either let others write our stories for us — or we can take charge and responsibility for ourselves and actively write our own narratives.
In a way, Rousseau is saying the same thing but just in a different way.
We often let society, other people, our peers, and the media dictate how we should think and act. Whether it be keeping up with each other through the display of material things or presenting an unnaturally curated lifestyle, we are more influenced by everyone and everything than we’ve ever been in the history of mankind.
There is more of everything and everyone, easily accessible through our phones and various devices. The more digitally connected we are, the more prone we are to being persuaded by marketers, algorithms and shallow news.
We are persuaded unconsciously and with frequency. Progress has created for us a modern version of shackles and chains.
To write our own stories, we need to figure out the things that keep us in our place. Sometimes it’s a person’s opinion. Sometimes is a collection of things like work, physical location and education.
To write our own stories, we need to figure out what we want our stories to look like — then take the necessary steps to carve out your own yellow brick road.
5 years ago, the thing that kept me in my place was the enmeshed relationship I had with my mother. Last year, it was my loss of direction and a sense of work-life fulfillment. This year is the fact that my bank account is now down to its final amount and being officially unemployed.
Yet, I still have dreams and a game plan — because all the greatest stories have great highs and deep lows. Financially, I am at my lowest but mentally, I’ve never been happier and more balanced in my relationships.
I’ve made peace with my mother. My partner and I have found the balance when it comes to parenting the children. I’ve rediscovered my passion for coding after a good few months hiatus.
I’m writing again after 5 years of radio silence.
This is my story and while not everything has gone my way, I’m still in charge of all my choices — acutely aware of the influences of the people around me and the digital things I’m connected to.
This has led me to live my life with a self-accountability mindset. There are external things that I cannot change like the decisions and actions of others. But for the things that I can change — especially for myself — then it means that there is no scapegoat for blame.
Everything I do is my choice — because there is always a choice. Sometimes I may not like them but they are still choices nevertheless. What I choose determines my outcome. If it goes great, yay me. If not, there is no self-blame — only lessons and reflection on why things went wrong. Over time, I’ve learned and accepted that self-blame and dwelling on the past will not help me grow my future.
Stories are written forward with an end goal in mind — not backward with no clear direction. This is my story so far. What’s yours?