I heard a very good speech at Toastmasters a few months ago. It was a painful story about love and betrayal. The story was extremely well told, and everyone who heard it was moved, me included. But at the end of the speech, I was left with a sense of dread. There was no resolution, no overcoming of adversity, no better future. Instead, I only felt the storyteller’s pain.
Even though the speech ended, it wasn’t really the end of the story. The speaker’s life goes on. The speech was actually a middle chapter of the speaker’s story (even though the speaker doesn’t yet feel that way).
The Ending Is Just a Beginner
Life’s greatest challenges can feel like the end of a story. But they’re not. They’re actually the middle chapters in a story.
In every great story the hero starts out happy. Then the hero is faced with some life-altering challenge. The hero is forced to face her dragon or be lost. In great stories, she overcomes her challenge and is changed forever. This is the arc of all great stories.
All great stories are survivor stories. They’re all about overcoming adversity, sometimes unimaginable adversity.
When you are challenged to the breaking point, it can feel like the final chapter. It can feel like the end. But the chapter you’re writing isn’t the final chapter. It’s that chapter in the middle of the book when all hope is lost. You’re really right at the arc of the story where the hero is made, where she steps up to the challenge, asserts her will, enlists the help of other heroes, and slays the dragon. This is where you are made. It’s where you make yourself.
The Later Chapters
The later chapters are where the hero tells others their story and inspires others to conquer the dragons that they’re facing. Even when heroes fail, they tell stories of lessons learned, of a battles well fought, of recovery, and of survival. And that’s enough.
It might feel like you are writing a final chapter. But you’re really writing a middle chapter. How the story turns out has yet to be decided. Know that there is more to write and write the best ending possible.
How do you deal with the “middle chapters,” the painful, overwhelming challenges life throws your way?
Can you remember “middle chapters” that felt like the end? What did you gain from those experiences?
What’s your story of survival, of adversity faced and overcome?