With poise, F. Scott Fitzgerald remarked, “There are no second acts in American lives.” But this cannot be true representation of our lives. We SlimFast. We gain weight again. We Jazzercise. And put on a quick 15 at the holidays.
So maybe the comment extends past body image. But there are instances recreation all around us. As a college student, I am continually terrified that the real world is waiting; I am not sure what I want to be, or where, or how I’ll get there. The only comfort that I find in my situation is the assurance of other adults that the world is not a steadfast place. You can change jobs, remarry, and redefine yourself when you feel that it is necessary.
The wording in Fitzgerald’s quote is quite interesting. Although he denies the possibility of it, he refers to life as existing in ‘acts’. Coincidentally, it is human nature (although contested as such, but I feel it is a rather innate trait in all of us) to tell stories. This process of telling our stories allows us to develop our own personal narrative that we tell. This narrative is rather mealeable and only certain people know all the details — and only you can know how these details impact your life. Regardless, the stories exist and they are an insight into our thoughts and feelings about situations.
Beyond providing a means to re-evaluate our current lives, telling stories permits a type of forward thinking. In our interactions, we harbor love, or contempt, or strong desires that are driven by our stories. In that manner, telling our past stories generates our perception of our future self. This understanding or idea of a future self allows for us to violate the Fitzgerald quote. If I know what I am and what I want to be, I can behave in such a way as to reconcile any differences between the two ‘me’s’. And after I have changed once, I can continue to look forward and adapt more.
As I reconsider it, perhaps F. Scott Fitzgerald was correct. There are no second acts in American life because the word ‘act’ implies some distinction. Despite our traumatic events and the beautiful events that occur, we can only continue what we have. Marriage is not a ‘second act’ as much as it is a development- an evolution- into a new narrative. Our stories only become more intricate – but we’re not Shakespeare nor tragedies. Our stories are already marked with a certain death. Yet as we work toward the inevitable, we develop our own narrative and path- and this is the true marker of our identity. Not our personality. We define ourselves with stories- the continual flow of one day to the next. Within this construction, we grow and redefine until we reach the end of our days.