Editing Life

MyLifeAt a an author reading at Auntie Bookstore’s last year, Craig Johnson talked about how much he liked Robert Taylor’s audition for the role of Sheriff Walt Longmire in the A&E TV series based on Johnson’s novels (Viking). That is, he liked it until a breathy “Oh, my” escaped from his wife’s lips when she saw Taylor saunter across the screen. She quickly defended her reaction by describing Taylor as a taller and slightly better looking, “TV version” of her husband. (Nice save, Mrs. Johnson.)

This made me wonder what the TV/film version of me would be like. I pictured a polished, skinnier Asa, with better skin, thicker more lustrous hair, wearing expensive designer clothes and shoes. She would know how to walk in high heels, have an infectious tinkling laugh, and use a clever repertoire of insightful comments during conversations. And she would look good in hats.

Later that night, I uploaded some pictures from the author event to social media and realized the edited version of my life already exists: Facebook.

Here are some of the director choices I’ve made for the Facebook version of my life:

Major Milestones:
My husband and friend arrange an amazing 40th birthday party—show pictures of guests, especially cute children of friends playing with dog. 

Turning 40 means spending an alarming amount of time in front of a magnifying mirror tweezing coarse hairs that sprout on my chin—CUT!

Traveling:
Ziplining in Costa Rica—post photos of posting with hubby in matching helmets, include video of me whizzing down a very high line at fast speeds.

Spending hours on the toilet, purging from both ends due to Costa Rican amoeba entering gastrointestinal system—Are you crazy?! Nobody wants to see that. CUT!

College Instructor Day Job:
Interacting with smart/clever/funny students—share quotes of tongue-in-cheek test answers, mention star students’ Ivy League acceptance, scholarships, and prestigious internships. It’s also okay to include interactions and comments from clueless, sometimes more challenged/challenging students.

Grading for hours, sitting in office at 10.30 pm, shoving Dove chocolate in my mouth while mainlining Mountain Dew—Nope. You’ll be solely responsible for nobody ever becoming a teacher again. Also, nobody should ever eat that much chocolate. CUT!

The truth is, the Facebook version of my life is like a 30 minute sitcom. Everything I experience is cute and witty, the only thing missing is the canned audience laughter. I’m not fabricating anything, but I choose on which scenes to focus the lens. This is not that different from how I write. I select only the parts of a character’s back story that inform the story. I show only the scenes and dialogues that propel the plot forward.

If I was writing myself as a character in the novel version of my life, I might include the scene of grading tons of assignments late at night to create sympathy. I’d definitely cut the size of the chocolate stash though. Maybe the toilet scene would be included too, but a heavily edited version with much less projectile vomiting.

The truth is, we all edit who we are all the time. The persona we show on a first date is different than who your partner wake up to after ten years of marriage. Just ask my husband, we’re hitting the fifteen years mark this summer.

I don’t mind reading the edited version of my Facebook friends’ lives. Social media allows me to stay in touch with people I might otherwise never talk to again. Not because I don’t like them, but because we are all too busy to nourish the kind of social circle the internet allows us to maintain. I’m okay with getting the high lights of their story, even the heavily edited ones.

And as everyone is heading to AWP in Seattle this week, I can’t wait to catch up with old friends and acquaintances in person. Keep checking my Facebook for pictures of who I saw and how much fun we had.

(Ps. If the above seems familiar to you, it’s because I stole parts of this post from one that I originally wrote for the FF&P blog last year. I’m recycling so I can get my teaching work done and go play at AWP for the rest of the week. See you there!)

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