The Chosen One

While there is a Chosen One trope, this post is not really about that. . . . Well, okay, I will get back to that trope later.

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My niece has been accepted into five grad programs. I’m not going to mention the schools. Suffice it to say that many people want to go to these schools. I’ll pause here to allow you time to guess how old I have to be to have a niece about to graduate from college. (Though for all you know, she could be a twelve-year-old prodigy. But I won’t confirm or deny guesses about my age. Just so you know.)

Are you done? Good. Anyhoo, I’m embarrassed to say that my first reaction (other than pride in my niece’s academic desirability) was, Humph. I never had five of anything wanting me. Well, except for the time those bees were after me.

Now let’s back the pity truck up to my undergraduate years. I worked hard—at partying, that is. Because my GPA plummeted, I had to work really, really hard to get my grades up to “Well, okay, we won’t kick you out” status. My straight-A niece, however, has been a disciplined student for years.

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My industrious niece (photo at left; busy as a . . . well, you can see what animal) and me as an undergraduate by comparison (though I’m closer in looks to that chicken in the photo at right)

So, there is a certain work ethic to being chosen. Hard work often is par for the course. Think of the star high school and college players who go on to play professional sports.

Of course, we all know people who were handed opportunities simply because they were at the right place at the right time (or had the right parents). But some were chosen because of other factors—extraordinary looks, talent, or intelligence. For example, one of my college roommates senior year had the kind of head-turning beauty that made her many female enemies. (We got along fine . . . after awhile.) She could walk into a room and capture the attention of every male present.

We all want to be chosen, don’t we? We want to win the contest, get that scholarship or placement in our school of choice, the gold star, the book contract, the agent—whoever or whatever our goal happens to be.

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Perhaps that’s one reason why the trope of the Chosen One sometimes grates (besides the fact that it has been overused). An article at Fantasy Faction (you can read it by clicking here), puts it this way:

The chosen one is a trope that sets one character above the others as special. They are the hero, the one chosen by fate. . . . The idea that some people might be born better than others is something we tend to firmly reject today.

We might reject it, because we want to believe that if we work hard enough, good things will come to us. Or we want to believe that we’re good enough or special enough. But sometimes, though we work as hard as we can, and are good enough, we still aren’t chosen. Bummer, right?

But that leaves us with a choice still—like the one I had when considering my niece’s good news. I could celebrate with her (or others with good news) or fall back on statements showing envy like, “Some people have all the luck” or “Why couldn’t something this good happen to me?” Those are my usual fallback statements. Know why? Because they keep me from thinking about all of the opportunities I wasted—when I slacked off, instead of working or practicing or doing the types of things that make a person top choice.

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I’m tired of envying someone his or her chosen status. Instead I can choose to make better choices—like not comparing myself to others; like believing I’m special even when I’m not chosen. I know this choice is difficult, especially in matters of the heart (like when someone I love chooses to marry someone else, rather than me—yep; I’ve been there) or when I’m around a chosen one who is full of himself of herself. But even in that circumstance, I can still choose to be okay with myself.

Have you ever been “the Chosen One”? What was that experience like for you? Have you ever envied someone who was chosen?

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Me hard at work . . . or watching YouTube videos and thinking about work

Beaver from searchpp.com. Keep calm sign from keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk. First-place ribbon from sticker.com. Envy image from gograph.com. Photos of My Little Pony Pinkie Pie® by L. Marie.

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60 thoughts on “The Chosen One

  1. This post made me chuckle, and I would never dare to ask you your age!
    The Chosen One made me think of Reeve’s character in The Matrix.

    • Thank you. Have a virtual bag of M&Ms for your restraint, Andy.
      Yes, he was definitely the Chosen One, as was Anakin Skywalker. The Chosen One always seems to have more power than anyone!

  2. Given that my niece will be turning 20 a month after I turn 27 later this year, I’m sure you’re not a day over 30. 😛 😉

    I totally hear you on this post. I don’t think I’ve ever been the Chosen One, and I have been envious of others who were on quite a number of occasions. With me, it often has to do with music stuff that I’m involved in, whether someone else getting the solos in choir, or someone else getting the role I wanted in a musical.

    Interestingly, at a recent meet-up with my writing group, we were talking about how interesting it would be to read a novel where the MC was brought up thinking he was the Chosen One (eg. Harry Potter), only when the Epic Confrontation with the Big Bad came along, suddenly learning it wasn’t him at all and someone else who also fit the criteria (eg. Neville Longbottom), and how that would affect a person. I’d love to write something about it but I don’t think I could do it justice.

      • Aw, thank you! It has stuck in my mind, but I have three WIPs on the go at the moment, and a new one is the last thing I need! I might try it in the future, though!

    • Um, yeah. Not a day over! 🙂
      I agree with Laura–you have to write that story, Emily. You CAN do it justice.

      It’s tough, isn’t it? You put yourself out there not only with books but with musicals. Bravo for doing that in both arenas!

      • It is definitely one that will stick at the back of my mind, so maybe one day. I currently have three WIPs in various states of completion, so the last thing I need is a fourth! But in the future, maybe…

      • You can never have too many WIPs, I always say. I have six! Or maybe 7. I feel like I’m missing one somehow. . . .

  3. Congratulations to your niece, L. Marie! No doubt she gets her brains from her Auntie. 🙂
    Our gifts, talents, successes and value are entirely unique to each person and our purpose in this world. Therefore, how could they be properly compared to anyone else?

    • Thanks, Jill. I wish I could take credit. Oh okay. I’ll just do that (though my brother and sister-in-law would beg to differ). You’re right. We’re all unique. We’d all like to know that what we bring to the table is valuable. 🙂

  4. Never been the Chosen One to my knowledge, but I don’t know if real world Chosen Ones are ever aware of their status. It seems to be a title put on them by other people, which 9 times out of 10 is an insult. As an author who uses this ‘trope’, I think we tend to overlook that such a thing isn’t always good. This tends to mean that the special character is put through more stress and hardship than the average one. We groan at how they are put on a pedestal, but fail to notice that it also makes them easier for dragons to eat or lightning to hit. The fall is pretty rough and easy too. I’ve known many talented artists who got so caught up in their own hype that they never went anywhere. This ties into the hardworking side of things because talent and luck only gets you to fame when you’re a reality TV star.

    • Good points, Charles. I worked on a Chosen One of a sorts story and put the character through hell. (It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.) But I’ve probably read too many “Special Snowflake” stories where the Chosen One was the most desired and powerful. Unlike poor Frodo, who was psychologically and physically damaged, these Chosen Ones seem virtually unscathed and special.

      I agree that the Chosen One is the lightning magnet. I can’t help thinking of the first Percy Jackson story.

      I know your characters go through really really hard times (like Luke and poor Nyx).

      • I think YA has taken over the Chosen One trope and made turned it into the special snowflake. Harry Potter is a good example of this. He loses a mentor or two, but that’s just about it. The death of the old guard is fairly common and it wasn’t like Dumbledor didn’t show up as a ghost. Obi-Wan did too, but Luke Skywalker lost a hand as well. Sometimes I think the YA market doesn’t want to show much in the way of pain and sacrifice because of the age bracket.

      • Too true. We have to keep our protagonists pretty so the readers will envy them their love triangles. 🙂 I’ve only read one story (and I won’t mention the title due to spoilers) where a character paid the ultimate price. The author got plenty of grief over that from fans.

      • I can think of a few series like that. It’s odd how some people complain that the hero never suffers, but then you have others who hate when it does happen.

      • People are never satisfied! Either you have the ones who live vicariously through that hero (and therefore don’t want him to suffer) or those who enjoy watching others worse off than they are, and want him to suffer more than they do!

  5. Linda, thanks for ANOTHER thought-provoking post! Wow. And I agree with what Charles said above – being The Chosen One ain’t all peaches and cream. And as you noted in your post — your niece wasn’t just handed those acceptances, she worked her tail off to get them. A recent interview in with Rainbow Rowell in Writer’s Digest connects to your post. In it, she notes that being a Chosen One removes choices. While the clarity of one’s role in the world may serve as a sort of guidepost, it can also be severely limiting.

    • THank you. Ooo. I want to read that Rainbow Rowell article. Do you think it’s online? I’m sure it’s a great interview!

      Yes, being the Chosen One isn’t great. Harry Potter had an awful time of it. I’m sure he would have wanted to have hi parents back, rather than the mantle of the Chosen One. 😦

  6. Congratulations to your niece. Exciting news, indeed.
    To your question “Have you ever been “the Chosen One”? What was that experience like for you? Have you ever envied someone who was chosen?” – No. I have, however, had the prominent position of always and forever being “second fiddle” . Yep. That’s me. 🙂 Oh, wait, there was once. My Greek grandmother, Yia Yia, always made me feel like I was her favorite. Always . . . and I refuse to believe it when her other grandchildren tell me they were her favorite. They don’t know nothin’. 🙂

    • I love your grandmother stories, Penny. 🙂 (Once my car situation is settled, let’s get together.)

      My dad reminded me that I’ve been the Chosen One at times. That’s the good thing about parents. They remind you of your blind spots. 😀

      • They sure do, L. Marie. Mentioning your dad reminds me of my mom, who called me her “rock”. I was the steadfast one. I guess that is akin to being the Chosen One. 🙂
        Let me know and we can set a date.

  7. Much of self-created suffering is rooted in the frantic desire to attain something other than what we already have . . .

    But nothing lasts.
    So what’s the rush?

    Once we attain our heart’s desire, a new desire arises to take its place. So we’re always reaching for a “brass ring” that’s just out of reach.

    In contrast, once we stop trying to satisfy every itch, we begin to realize that there is little reason to get caught up in regret about people we didn’t meet, books we didn’t read (or write), conversations we didn’t have, foods we didn’t taste, pounds we didn’t lose, movies we didn’t watch, awards we didn’t win, or places we didn’t visit.

    And we no longer have any reason to Envy any one . . . even The Chosen One.

    • You know, I thought of what you would say, since you have written a number of posts on the Ego. 🙂 I don’t know what you sound like exactly, Nancy, but I imagined myself reading one of your posts. 😀

      • Guess that means I’m . . . consistent.
        And content to just be . . . me!

        Congrats to your niece.
        It’s good to have choices from which to choose.

      • That’s what I like about you. 🙂
        I’m glad for her, though the hard part comes with living with the choice. 🙂

      • Yes. Much of life remains outside our line of sight ~ whether it’s where to live, who to marry, what career to pursue, or where to go on vacation, our decisions can impact people, places, and things all around the globe in ways we cannot begin to imagine.

        Since there is no way to factor in all the permutations and variables, when faced with a choice, we do what we can with what we have where we are and listen for the whisper of intuition to point us in the right direction . . . or tell us (later) that a course correction is needed.

        And, on the “plus” side, once we’ve chosen Door #1 . . . what’s behind all the other Doors remains hidden from view. So we never get to see that we made the “best” choice.

      • Very true, Nancy! (Now I’m thinking of that old game show, Let’s Make a Deal, with its prizes behind doors. 🙂

  8. I’ve always tended to be in competition with myself and myself alone. I learned long ago that a strong work ethic makes things happen, but even when we give it our all, sometimes things don’t pan out. Then we move onto something else. But yes, sometimes it’s hard not to covet what others have. As long as we use it to inspire us and not cripple us, I think we’ll be fine.

  9. I feel like the chosen one trope deeply relies on self-fulfilling prophesies. If someone feels “chosen” they put in the hard work and make the right choices to make them worthy of that title. Probably has correlations in real life too.

    • Yes, it does. I can’t help thinking of the first Percy Jackson series. And of course Star Wars. And of course Harry Potter. I wrote a Chosen One of sorts story that I queried to no avail. I might return to it someday.

      I liked that article I mentioned in the post. It has a fair view of the trope.

  10. We all want to be chosen. If you want to be the chosen one for a particular thing, then rejection hurts. That’s life. Normally we eventually get over it and receive love and affirmation from our circle.

    Congratulations to your niece. Now one of the schools gets to become the ‘chosen one.’

    • Rejection definitely hurts. I know that firsthand! 😀

      She’s very thrilled. I’m not sure where she’ll wind up. Possibly her first choice, though there’s no escape from the winter weather!

  11. But you ARE the Chosen One! Of all the three million blogs on WordPress alone, we all choose to come and read yours! That makes you more special than 2,999,999 other people… 😀

    • Thank you! I’ll have to note that in my diary. “Dear Diary, Today, I learned that I am special!” But I suspect that people were more drawn to the photos of Pinkie Pie holding a taco and the rubber chicken. I know those would be a draw for me. 😀

  12. Congratulations to your niece. That’s a great achievement.

    Having just gone through the undergraduate college admissions process with my daughter who applied to colleges both in the UK and the US, I have to say that the US process seems extremely convoluted and unfair compared to the UK. Over here, to get admitted to a good school you need so much more than good grades. It helps for example to go to a public school, belong to a minority and to live in an obscure part of the country. Legacy admissions and sports scholarships further complicate the process. In the UK admissions are solely based on grades. Of course I exaggerate and of course there are advantages and disadvantages to both systems but I’m a great believer in simplicity.

    • One of my grad classmates and a young undergrad friend of mine attended colleges in the UK. They would agree with you, Malcolm. In fact my classmate’s daughter applied to schools in the UK. I’m not sure if she applied to US schools. (Probably not.) I feel sorry for students with all of the hoops they have to jump through!

  13. Yay for your niece!

    I’d like to point out I know a few gals whose nieces are older than they. 😉

    I have been on both sides of chosen and not chosen. I think most people have. Both sides can stink. Which means both sides can be great, too. 😉

    • It’s really all about perspective as my pastor preached about this past Sunday. (He’d be proud that I remembered that.) I’ve also been on both sides of the coin as my father pointed out when I discussed this post with him on the phone. My dad would be the first to admit that I have now reached the age where I am older than he is, since he’s the same age Jack Benny always claimed he was.

      • Ahahahahahaha! I LOVE the Jack Benny show. 🙂

        One of my friends dads played #53 in football. He SO looked forward to reaching 53. Now that he’s gotten there, he states his age as 53 plus …. 😛

      • Ha ha! That’s hilarious! It’s nice to settle on an age that you like. That way, when you get forgetful, you already have an age in mind when someone asks you how old you are. Every year you can say, “Thirty-nine” or “Fifty-three.”

  14. Great thoughts here. I’ve never been the Chosen One. In fact, I often describe myself as the lifelong poster child for the B+ student: never quite smart enough, or connected enough, or manipulative enough to make a go of it… but rather happy in spite of it all. Go figure.

  15. You attended Northwestern, right? Well, my son decided not to apply there because he didn’t think it was enough of a party school. And in high school, he told me, “You’re supposed to spend all your time working so you get into a good college, and all your time working in college so you can get into the right business or law school, and all your time working in business or law school so you can get the right job, and all your time working at that job so you can get that promotion. Then one day you wake up and realize all you’re doing is working at something you hate for some reward you may get in some future down the line.”

    • Yes, I went there. While the school is not known to be a party school, I certainly found enough parties to attend. There are plenty of frat parties! But he’s right. You need to spend time working toward getting into a good grad school. But I think you can enjoy your time in college too. It doesn’t all have to be drudgery.

  16. I just finished reading “Lean In.” One of the points Sheryl Sandberg made was that women aren’t as ambitious as men. We’re afraid of being the chosen one because then people won’t like us. Or we don’t think we’re worthy. We don’t have all the skills needed. Someone else is more qualified.

    When I was about nineteen years old I was chosen as the queen of my small town’s yearly 4th of July celebration, our Loggerodeo. I wouldn’t have considered running for the position if I hadn’t found out I could make as much money running for queen as working at any of my usual summer jobs. (We had to sell tickets to qualify for the top five, and we kept a percentage.) I wasn’t really comfortable with being the “chosen one.” I blamed it on the people from the American Legion who helped me sell tickets and on the fact that two of the judges went to the same church I did. Actually, I still feel that way, especially about all the help I had from the American Legion. My dad, a carpenter, was the volunteer foreman of the Legion building expansion, which is probably why they chose to sponsor me.

    • That’s an interesting assessment by Sandberg. And it’s interesting that you felt uncomfortable being the chosen one. The chosen state has pros and cons, doesn’t it? Sometimes being in the limelight can be difficult. I’m not much for the spotlight!

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