This is what writer Susan Sontag teaches us: we should know that we’re the writers of the story of our lives, and we can keep shaping who we really want to be for the rest of our days.
Sontag saw both her life and her personality as work in progress. She was addicted to New York City life. She didn’t just find herself there – she created herself.
According to biographer Benjamin Moser, her posthumously published diaries show a touching side of Sontag: she was capricious and fell in love over and over again. Her true ‘self’ kept changing, and she embraced this inner instability to the fullest.
Even when cancer struck her, she refused to accept she was a terminally ill patient. In her essay ‘Illness as metaphor’ (1978), she fought conventional ideas about patients, and made her life into an art project.
Many of us tend to get tangled into the spider webs of our history – the stories we spun about ourselves. We see our identities as an organically grown, fixed thing.
What can we learn from Sontag? Perhaps it is that our identity an illusion that we can transform with our own magic. And that, despite our worries or strange plot twists, we’re the directors of our own theater.
Sontag never let the world keep her from renewing who she was. With her pen –sharp as a knife – she kept shaping her identity. Because no matter in which way we grow, in the end, we’re all work in progress.
Text: Julia Maria Keers – Photo: Yoann Boyer
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