Nodus Tollens: Shaping My Story

Well, this will be the first post I've written in two months. Fittingly, the last post concerned a digital story I had produced for one of my classes last semester. Now, I'm going to speak once again about stories.

Tonight, I watched a YouTube video that struck a chord with me. Part of the amazing but melancholy Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows video series, this video visualized yet another phrase imagined by its creator: Nodus Tollens. From the video's description, Nodus Tollens describes "the realization that the plot of your life doesn't make sense to you anymore-that although you thought you were following the arc of the story, you keep finding yourself immersed in passages you don't understand, that don't even seem to belong in the same genre-which requires you to go back and reread the chapters you had originally skimmed to get to the good parts, only to learn that all along you were supposed to choose your own adventure."

I have felt this often, especially lately. Coming to university was a new chapter in my story. I felt that here, I could finally find my place, my people, my passions. Though just seven hours' drive from my hometown, Oklahoma was a chance for a fresh start. And it certainly has turned out to be, though not in ways that I expected. I imagined frolicking on campus at night, long road trips, and meaningful conversations had at 3AM. And all of these things have happened, just as expected. But yet I feel unfulfilled.

I've realized that chapters in my story overlap, constantly morphing with a seeming mind of their own. Friendships have begun and ended almost simultaneously, and though I have a hand in shaping my own story, it often feels as though I am a passenger looking in at my own life as it flies by. Aspects of myself that seemed cemented change in a panicked instant, as I begin to question every decision I was once sure of making. My personality type seems to change every few months, as "evidenced" by my Myers-Briggs results - previously an ESTP, today an ISFJ. Nearly opposite profiles.

For years, I was conflicted between a need to plan my entire life, brought on by my controlling nature, and the begrudging realization that circumstances change shockingly quickly. There is only so much control I can exert on my own story, unfortunately. Adventures are short-lived when so many other responsibilities exist. People change, including me. Friendships are two-sided. Life happens.

I tend to live in future tense. Completing assignments far before they are due and planning out my class schedule three years in advance are just two examples of my extremely forward-thinking tendencies. This works for my purposes, but often, I become so overwhelmed by my potential future that I forget about the present. As soon as I am drawn back into reality, the amount of responsibilities I have left to fulfill is nearly crippling.

I need to remember to live in present tense. The mantras are common and cringeworthy: "Live in the moment;" "Carpe diem;" "Don't let life pass you by." Perhaps there is a reason, though, that the same idea is reworked and spat out time and time again.

I am the only one who can write my own story. But unlike a fully-fledged novel, I cannot skip to the end and spoil the finale. It hasn't been written yet. All I can do is flesh out the beginnings and brainstorm the pages ahead, as pencil-marked plans are constantly erased and rewritten, to be retraced in permanent ink when time catches up with them.


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