Every story has a three things: a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Some would say that every person has a story.
I like to think that every person is more like a really long series that doesn’t end until the author dies, and maybe, in some ways, even continues after that.
You see, in a series, there are many stories. Each one has it’s own beginning, middle, and end. Each has its conflicts and its resolutions; its love and its loss. In each of those stories, we learn a little more about the main character, and at the same time, the main character learns a little more about themselves. The trick is, we might not like some of the books in the series as much as others. As both the author and the main character, we sometimes feel like we wish we’d never written that story or that we had written it differently… But what if Harry Potter had the option to rewrite his own story? Would he have kept all the parts about Dobby before he knew the whole story? Or would he have written the house elf out after Dobby dropped the cake on Uncle Vernon’s company, so that he never met the little guy and never went on to their later adventures?
I’ve kept about a hundred different journals over the years. I am a ripper. I used to think that by removing the pages from the last chapter of my story, I would help myself move into the next, symbolically. Effectively, I would throw out book two in order to focus on book three, without ever looking back at all the awesome stuff I wrote in book two. I’ve lobotomized my story by ripping out the pages so many times that I probably contributed to the death of at least one small forest and probably several Gigs of blog data. Then one day, it clicked.
Every story teaches us what we need to know to understand the next.
Mind blowing, right?
No? Not really? Okay, fine. Sure, it sounds like common sense, but why do so many of us forget it all the time? We tell each other to ‘never look back’ and ‘just keep swimming’ and ‘keep looking ahead’. We encourage people to forget the past and focus on the future. All too often, these are the words we hear when the painful times fall on us. When the hard battles have been fought and we find ourselves lying in the wreckage of loss, maybe even defeat, wondering what comes next and often feeling like there is no hope for a future at all, that is when we get told to focus forward. So many people are just like I was and they try to cut away the past and ‘just move on’ and purge their life of reminders of the painful thing entirely. In its own way, that’s okay. It’s the forgetting that’s not. The regret can be crippling.
The thing is, all stories have endings. Some stories are longer than others. Some take longer to write. Some start slowly and end in a flash. Others start out like a whirlwind and then go on indefinitely. Many stories can be written in tandem, and each is special, and unique, however big or small. Some may be little more than expanded universe material, but others will take their place in the greater series that is The Tale of You.
I won’t lobotomize my story anymore. Things are changing for me, right now. One story is ending and others are just beginning. Endings hurt. They hurt like hell and they’re never easy. Sometimes the ending rips your heart apart and leaves you feeling truly defeated and hopeless. The beginnings, though… There’s always a sense of energy at a beginning. Sometimes it’s negative because the path is unknown or scary, and sometimes it’s positive, because the path ahead is bright and welcoming. Sometimes, it’s bittersweet, with a mixture of light and shadow that makes you curious and a little nervous all at once.
The point is, things end, but every ending means you’re just that much closer to the next great beginning. Without the knowledge from the last chapter, we wouldn’t be ready to face the next chapter. So many times when people meet new people who somehow change their lives, I hear the phrase “where were you X years ago?” The truth is, you wouldn’t have been ready for them X years ago. That goes for every question like this. “Why didn’t I do this before?” “Where was this when I was younger?” “Why didn’t I know better?” The answer is always the same: You simply weren’t ready. You hadn’t learned the lessons you needed or discovered the parts of you that needed to come out or made peace with the parts of you that couldn’t be accepted by others until you accepted them in yourself.
So yes, things end… and that just means you’re ready for the next great adventure, wiser and better prepared than ever before.
Hang on tight. This series is a long way from over, folks.