But every time I tried to understand myself as a character or my life as a trajectory that should have a beginning, a central conflict, and a conclusion, I set myself up for failure. Thinking of my life that way made me unhappy; it simply didn't work.
It didn't work because life isn't a story. We write stories to make sense of life.
There have been a few important pieces/posts published lately that have touched on the importance of recognizing that we are all in the middle of our own struggles. Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh's hugely popular webcomic blog and as of last week a graphic novel, touched millions when Brosh depicted living with depression and slowly finding a way to survive, day after day. Linda Holmes, writer of NPR's Monkey See blog, recently wrote up a post about Hyperbole and a Half, tying Brosh's confessional illustrations to Donald Glover's recent honesty about struggles with depression in his life. Holmes makes the point that, though we're all in the middle of our journey, we are unused to seeing the struggle without the solution, the cure, the happy ending. Holmes calls this "the memoir model":
It's very sterile and very misleading to hear about battles only from people who either have already won or at least have already experienced the stability of intermediate victories. It presents a false sense of how hard those battles are. It understates the perilous sense of being in the middle of them. It understates how scary they are.
In a recent John Green Vlogbrothers video, he discusses living with depression over many years:
[W]ith a million seconds of perspective, or I guess 365 million seconds, I see a life that I am now very grateful to have beginning to happen. But I didn't know that then, Hank. All I knew was that I was a little less hopeless than I had been. You can't know what an experience will mean to future you, until you are future you. You need millions of seconds of perspective, which ultimately only time can buy.There was no instant solution, no obvious turning point where the musical soundtrack swelled and John Green was suddenly cured of sadness or conflict forever. His life isn't a story; he writes stories to make sense of his life. So does Allie Brosh, so does Donald Glover, so does Linda Holmes. So do I, and so do you.
When you're in the middle of drafting a new book it can be hard to see your book, and yourself, as a work in progress. Often not being 'done' can feel like failure. It isn't -- your work is ever-changing, ever-evolving, just like your life and your journey. Embrace it and keep going!
"Middle Age-road" by Sten. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Middle_Age-road.JPG#/media/File:Middle_Age-road.JPG