In Dungeons and Dragons (yes, I used to play D&D, get over it) the very first thing you do, once your DM has declared the arena in which you are playing (or RIFTS — we did that too), is you wrote up your Character Sheet. Inevitably a piece of Xeroxed paper, it had check boxes and blank spaces for you to detail your character’s physical appearance, social abilities, physical, mental, and emotional abilities/proclivities, as well as a back story. It was not uncommon for everyone’s character to be a fantastically good-looking crack-shot nuclear physicist and ace-pro lover, ala Buckaroo Banzai, but there would be the “fatal flaw” they’d introduce in their character: you know, to remain interesting.
Life doesn’t hand you a character sheet. You are given the looks you inherit genetically, you are alloted the IQ points that amass themselves in your grey matter. Your character, however, is something you can develop and change. (Yes, you can “train your brain”. Yes, you can use surgery to enhance your physical appearance. But really, your character is something both easier and harder to manipulate, and it’s what we’re discussing here, so let’s ignore the caveats and nota benes, shall we?)
One of the best speeches in recent movie history was in The American President, where Michael Douglas’ president makes the statement that a the upcoming presidential race would be *entirely* about character. Any race: presidential, rat, or otherwise, is about character.
I’ve spent some time evaluating the things about myself I don’t like: I send emails too quickly, I take things to heart too easily, I spend too much time worrying about others opinions, I continue to not have the discipline to have the physique I’d like. Some of these are correctable via self-direction, some of these I will have to run into a brick wall or two in order to acquire the necessary mental note. Others seem doomed to compromise: my weight being one of them.
I’ve known a few people who have taken stock of their life completely, and turned it around in a fashion amazing to those who knew them well and those who knew them casually. One good friend lost nearly a hundred pounds, got divorced, acquired all sorts of new hobbies (including running, triathlons, and barhopping); another lost a significant amount of weight (she is not telling, nor should she), stayed married, took control over her education and career and is literally living the dream in Hawaii. Some friends have made changes not so sweeping: leaving an unsatisfying job, taking on new hobbies, reinvesting in their health; I think part of the human condition is to self-evaluate and, for some of us, to target improvements.
I have no idea how much of this is driven by the checklist mentality or the presumptive dopamine rush that comes from living this way. I do know that I have a few things I’d like to change, and maybe if I’m open and outward about them, and write them down, and profess them, if not in a character sheet with 8 or 12 friends and a 20-sided dice but in a blog with 8 or 12 readers and a 20-sided life, maybe then, I can upgrade my character.