I am currently re-reading a thicket of short stories of mine, plowing through basically every non-novelized bit of fiction I’ve written since Kiss Me, my first and only story collection. Some of the pieces go back a decade or more (the oldest being “Haunted Hayride,” published in The Ottawa Citizen in 1998!) It’s like riding a time machine: I remember so vividly the physical places and, even more vividly, the mood and emotional circumstances of their writing that I’m often surprised at the different people I’ve been. No, not different people, exactly, but the different themes I’ve returned to in my life. I can see myself in the preoccupations of these stories more clearly than if I stared at myself in the mirror for a whole afternoon.
It makes me think that what we call personality – the way we know others, know ourselves – is really a walking bundle of themes. For some, it’s Lost Love and Missed Opportunity. For others, Second Chances and The Cost of Lies. Whatever the big concerns might be, they aren’t usually too numerous, as each of them are more then enough to buoy (or plague) a life to the end. So not only are we understandable as themes, but we typically are comprised of only one or two. Three if you’re an especially complicated soul. And there’s not much you can do about changing them either. Just try jettisoning one of your themes for longer than a week or two. They always come back.