Keeping up with Kincaid: am I the main character?


Laken Kincaid

Editor-in-Chief, Laken Kincaid, reflects on their thoughts from the past week.

Laken Kincaid, Editor-in-Chief

A lyric from a song on a Spotify playlist has been haunting my thoughts for the past few weeks. In a beautiful spoken word ballad entitled “Honey and Glass,” Peyton Cardoza muses that “’life is easy when you know that you’re the main character and I’m sitting here thinking this is not fair, but her smile makes it hard to be mad.” 

To be honest, as recently informed via a column by Opinion Editor Eric Fogle, I hate to use the term “main character” to describe anyone let alone myself because it denotes that there are those who play less important roles in the grand scheme of the world. Who are we to judge those around us based on how active they are in their own biographies when we see but a fraction of their life and not even from their own point of view? When our own thoughts mimic stained glass in a cathedral, it is impossible to imagine how others perceive their own environment and what other information guides said perception. 

However, I admit, I used to take solace in this sense of classification. A while back, and I mean over a year and a half ago, I wrote a piece discussing my fear that I am a comedic side character in my own story; someone whose only purpose is to make others laugh while lacking the emotional depth that composes a true protagonist. Although I radiated confidence with my tonality and stature, I used humor as a shield for my insecurities that poked holes in my sense of sanctuary. 

This all stemmed from living a life that was not truly my own. I compromised my identity and my values for others so that I could keep them around me like a safety blanket. I was guided by external validation that only gave a brief hit of relief until the anxiety showered down once more in an onslaught. It was as if I was a fragile bridge bending to accommodate the needs of others no matter what strain it caused, a condition that can make any sense of confidence splinter. 

Now, I look back at the author of that piece and see an entirely different person. I know that is entirely cliche to say, but allow me to elaborate.

Since I originally wrote and published that column, I realized that growth is not linear and it starts internally. At the time, I was looking for avenues of improvement from outside sources because I did not trust myself enough to mature on my own. I also did not know who I would become in the long run and that uncertainty made me avoid the concept of reflection for years. It almost reflects a new mother’s terror of raising a child and how there are so many things that could go wrong in the process. 

The first step to surpassing this phobia was understanding myself and what the best version of that person could be. Going back to “Honey and Glass,” an additional lyric says that “there’s a beauty in knowing your place in the world, in loving yourself and knowing your worth.” 

While clinging to a secure spot as someone who accommodates others seems like the safest choice for navigating your college career, it means that you will never take control of your own story. You become the ink on the page rather than the person crafting the tale, your entire being is dependent on who is holding the pen. Key traits and components of your identity could be written out as your character stoops to fit into whatever mold the author needs it to. This idea of complacency is maddening. 

Yet, I am not instructing that the reader should view themselves through this main character paradigm. Life is so much more complex than a “Truman Show” style plot line. People are not static reflections of a villain archetype or an NPC. The person you see smiling with an award is the same person who sometimes spends 15 hours in bed because they are too depressed to move.

The intricacies of life cannot be captured on a storyboard and forcing yourself to meet this impossible black and white schema leads to either a false or lost sense of identity. 

Expecting yourself to always be the best and always hold a place in the lives of others forces you to become a chameleon to those around you. After all, no real person can possibly be the hero in every situation; forcing yourself into this causes your core sense of self to fracture. Unlike with every Superman or Beowulf, we are not only brave and intelligent but we are also abrasive and impulsive. 

Trying to erase our negative traits through molding to our surroundings forces us to insert not only ourselves but our peers into either main character or side character stereotypes, imposing stifling and confining boundaries for who we are. When we look at ourselves we should not see a leading man but rather an amalgamation of idiosyncrasies that allow us to fill multiple roles in our own and the stories of others.