I am a semi-unapologetic and woefully unironic fan of The Bachelor/Bachelorette show.
I am not, however, a fan of New Years’ resolutions, which are genetically coded for failure the way I am genetically coded for tallness.
A resolution is something we should do, don’t do, resolve to do in the future, do a few times, and then fail to continue doing. Which makes us feel bad.
Instead of making and breaking resolutions, I’m just going to give my year a title, a theme, an open-ended but also focused phrase to turn to for guidance and inspiration. And so, I turn to The Bachelor.
On The Bachelor/Bachelorette, the main strategy for all the contestants seems to be: Put Yourself Out There. On the cusp of a date, a contestant shares her strategy: “I’m just going to put myself out there.” If someone fails to make a connection with the Bachelor, the explanation is simple: “I didn’t put myself out there.” If someone succeeds in making in a connection, the celebratory cause: “I just put myself out there!”
I am a shy person. I have struggled my whole life to put myself out there. Being the tallest in my classes and being the new girl all through grade school didn’t help. Or maybe it did. What choice did I have than to put myself out there?
Few today would figure me for a shy girl. I’ve learned to teach classes and speak publicly and ask McDonald’s employees for extra ketchup (something I refused to do when I was 5). But when it comes to things like my writing, it’s hard for me do anything like promote myself or ask for support or tell my parents my accomplishments. (“Why didn’t you tell us you were voted MVP, dear?”) I didn’t even put my name on this blog for a long time. On my “About” page, I’ve got Emily Dickinson’s quote at the top: “I’m nobody, who are you?” For the first few months, that was the only statement of my identity you could find here.
But in 2011, my first book comes out, and I can’t afford to be shy. I have to, wait for it, put myself out there. I have to make announcements on Facebook, and send the book out for review, and give readings, and send out new work, and generally be the big green wizard head yelling from a giant screen when I’d rather hole up behind the curtain and make more stories.
So that’s my theme for the year.
But any fan of The Bachelor knows that even if all 25 girls put themselves out there, only one “wins,” and winning is a dubious honor indeed. Does this mean no one should put herself out there?
On the contrary, each contestant is on her own journey, and each one that doesn’t put herself out there can only express regret. They are worse than flat characters, they are static characters. Boring. But each one that puts herself out there – wherever ‘there’ is, whatever her ‘self’ may be – learns something and makes strides in her life that lead to growth and change. She is round, she is dynamic. She is, in short, the main character, and she is what good stories are made of.