From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

Star of My Own Movie

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving . . . and that’s your own self.

Aldous Huxley

I always loved the movies. It didn’t even matter if I went to see them alone. Once the lights faded and the previews began, I kept my eyes on the screen until the credits rolled and the lights came up again. In the movies, nothing seemed impossible; in fact, I liked to pretend that what was happening on-screen was happening in my own life, as well. In other words, I lived vicariously through the actresses on-screen, no longer an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl from a typical suburban neighborhood. I became the star of the cheerleading squad who leads her team to victory, or the orphaned teenager who bridges the gap between the races at her high school, or even the young woman who falls in love with a handsome nobleman from the nineteenth century. And I would always live happily ever after.

It wasn’t the charming characters that I loved most of all, or even the exciting adventures they had. I liked the happy endings, the perfect happy endings. I wanted my life to be like that, happy and wonderful. I wanted to escape the stress of family and friends and school. It was all so overwhelming that oftentimes I felt paralyzed. My only escape from the reality that haunted me was ducking into a movie theatre.

I hadn’t always been this way. As a young girl I was outgoing and friendly, and even involved in extracurricular activities. High school was different, though. I became quiet and withdrawn.

My parents were worried about me. They didn’t understand why I was suddenly so sad. They pleaded with me to call old friends or get more involved with school. They didn’t understand what the high-school pressures were like: the pressures to have the perfect body, the perfect grades and the perfect friends. Perfect just wasn’t me. My ideal world was unattainable. I was average. No more, no less. Average. I spent my free time on the couch watching one rental movie after another until the lull of the screen would put me to sleep.

After promising my parents a thousand times that I would call one of my old friends, I finally agreed. The only number I knew by heart was Sarah’s, so I called her. Sarah herself was pretty close to perfect: straight-A student, class president, off to Yale in the fall, beautiful, sweet, brilliant. We decided to meet for a pizza lunch.

We ate and talked and caught up on old times. She filled in the blanks of her life, and I smiled and told her everything in my life was good.

“Couldn’t be better,” I lied.

“You’re lucky,” she said honestly. “I can’t tell you how stressed out I’ve been lately. . . . “ She explained the pressures she was under, and even told me about some of her insecurities related to her future.

I couldn’t lie to her.

“I could be better actually,” I admitted.

I told Sarah everything. I told her how difficult it has been for me the past few years and how unbearable the pressure had been.

“I wish my life was the way it is in the movies,” I sighed. “It would be so much easier.” I looked down through my fingers, face in my hands.

“I understand,” she said.

I looked up at her, questioning her with my eyes.

She told me that she would often escape her realities by filling her spare moments with TV and movies, fantasizing that her life could follow the simple plot lines. She was just like me.

“Then one day,” Sarah explained, “I started to think about why I wanted to be like the people in the movies I was watching. What did those characters have that I didn’t have? And then it occurred to me. They had their scripts already written out for them. They weren’t real; they were somebody’s idea, somebody’s plan. I had ideas. I had plans. I had the ability to write my own script. If I alone had the power to determine the plot of my life movie, then why wouldn’t I make it an inspiring one, a movie with a happy ending?”

She took my hand in hers.

“Cecile,” she said, “you are the star of your own movie. Now all you need is your story.”

I looked into her eyes and nodded, and then suddenly I began to cry. She was right. No other actress could fill my role. Not one. It was up to me to produce, direct and edit my life. I decided right then and there that I would write my own script. I would set my own goals from now on, goals that I knew I was capable of achieving. There can be no success without the possibility of failure. The only sure way of failing is by refusing to try.

I looked over at Sarah, my new costar.

“Thank you,” I said squeezing her hand. The velvet curtain rose, and my film began to take on a glorious life of its own.

Cecile Wood

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