Different Roles We Play

I read May Not Appear Exactly as Shown by Gordon J.H. Leenders and was intrigued by this passage.

“Hey, like Shakespeare said, ‘All the world’s a stage and all the people actors.’”

“Life is not a play, Ryan. And Brad and Nicole are not actors.”

“The play’s the thing Katelin.”

“Ryan, stop it, life is not a play.”

“No, you’re right. Sometimes it’s a TV show, sometimes it’s a movie, sometimes it’s a documentary, sometimes a docudrama, sometimes it’s a commercial or a billboard in Times Square or –” I stop, noticing she looks like she’s about to leave and, changing my tone, making it sound warmer, less condescending, say, “Okay, look at yourself, Katelin, you act differently when you’re at work than when you’re with me, right?”


“So, which one is the act and which is the real you?”

“That’s totally different. I know you.”

“Sure, but they’re still different roles, right? I mean, when you go into work you switch into your ‘waitress’ role, when you go out with your friends you switch to your ‘friend’ role, when you’re having sex maybe you switch into your ‘dominatrix’ role –who knows? The point is, sometimes, everyday roles are either too much or not enough for some people so they need to take on other roles, assume other identities and…and I mean, haven’t you ever wanted to be someone else? Haven’t you ever pretended to be someone you’re not?”

That passage really got me thinking. We do play different roles. Perhaps people that know us in totally different ways wouldn’t even recognize us if we were described in those different ways. Maybe we wouldn’t either. This quote reminds me of this next one from the brilliant television show My So-Called Life.

Angela Chase is a teenager and we hear her thoughts through voice over narration. “What I, like, dread is when people who know you in completely different ways end up in the same area. You have to develop this, like, combination you on the spot.”

Now I know that I play many different roles in life. And there have even been times where different parts of my life have intercepted. I understand what Angela was saying there in that quote.

It’s a pretty interesting take on the classic speech in Shakespeare that I highlighted in a previous chapter of this series. And it is one that fits into my theory of Story being the nature of reality. Not only do we play different roles at different times in our lives, but we also play different roles for pretty much everyone we interact with. And now that I am on this train of thought, I see so many connections to it that I am not sure I can just tie up my blog post and leave it at that.

For instance, Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven shows how people can shape the lives of other people without ever having realized it. It goes to show that we play roles in this life that we aren’t even aware of.

I think that most people can admit to the truth behind this metaphor. It is brilliant and reveals a lot in its sheer simplicity. We do play different roles in this life and perhaps, as such, we are all characters in several different but interlocking stories. Something to think about, isn’t it?

2 responses to “Different Roles We Play”

  1. Yes Chase, it is something to think about.

    What I find interesting is how some people can be talking to us, and then someone else shows up, and they start talking completely different. It’s like “where did THAT come from?”.

    It makes me wonder, when that happens, would that be called phoniness? Or just another role?

  2. Hi Barbara,

    I think that we all behave in slightly different ways with different people.

    Under normal circumstances I don’t think this is “being phony.” Although there are some people out there that do put on a deliberate act and are truly phony. We can usually spot these people right away.

    I know that I’ve felt uncomfortable in the presense of two people who know me in completely different ways, and I’ve probably confused them in the same way you just described. So to answer your question, no I don’t think it is phoniness most of the time.