A Writer Wonders If It’s so Bad to Live Your Life like It’s a Movie

So the story goes.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Paulette Ely
  • Illustrated by
    Nikki Smith

“Your life is not a movie. I am not a character for your self-actualization.”

That’s a text I received from a boy recently. A best friend, really, who I deeply revered despite my romantic rejection. I respected him so much that I wrote him a letter before my departure back home, filled with adorable analogies comparing my mistakes to cinematic misfortunes. His response stung. Mostly because he was right.

Maybe it’s because I’m a Gen Z-illenial who grew up with generational narcissism. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, forever on the hunt for the greater meaning within the mundane. Whatever it is, I realized that I do find my journey to always be that of the hero’s. I’m not satiated until I settle on the narrative in everything I do as if it’s all part of this lifelong script. This all said, I’ve concluded that my life-as-a-movie outlook is thanks to one thing in particular: my upbringing in Los Angeles.

I mean, c’mon, how can you not think your life is cinematic when what you watch on-screen mirrors so many of your moves? The romanticism, the narcissism, the inside jokes about the best alternative to the 405 between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m. The Los Angeles lifestyle is so deep in the arts, and I’ve forever been drawn to the city’s best narratives. The books I read, the television shows I binge, the movies I watch—they are my crutches. I see fragments of my life represented right before me, each character aiding in the actualization of someone not too far off from myself.

Black Swan: Stories by Eve Babitz reminded me that everything is for the memoir. The pages tackle times of beauty, of pain, of drives up and down the PCH when the temperature on the Eastside becomes unbearable. She details learning to do the tango in the Valley—not for any other reason than it being difficult. Her life was a story of selfishness, set on the backdrop of sunlight and strong cocktails. It made me feel nostalgic for a future “me” set in the past.

Issa Rae’s Insecure is a love story between the characters and Inglewood. Just like their life experiences, we see the town adapt to changes all while remaining identifiably itself. The parks, the tacos, the community. It was an ode to the pockets of this city that are always left off-screen, and it aligned with my every move as I matured along with Issa.

Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood felt like visiting family—reliving the red leather booths at Musso & Frank and seeing scenes mirroring what I thought to be the tall tales of my father’s childhood. The Westwood theatre, El Coyote, drives to the depths of the Valley—it’s an all too familiar fantasy, yet it made me feel like I experienced parts of my father’s upbringing along with him. Bonding the two of us together, thanks to Mr. Brad Pitt.

I know my life is not a movie. For one, the budget sure isn’t high enough. I cannot help but wonder, however, what’s so bad about living like it is anyway? The cinematic sparkle of my steps through this existence connects me at a level that I find to be spectacular. It is my belief that we are all searching for the standout scenes of life, regardless of our generations or careers. I’d only hope that I may be a character for someone else’s self-actualization in their own starring role. So long as the story takes place in Los Angeles, I think it’d be a hit.