I love stories. I love them whether they are in books or on screen. I love to get lost in the stories I read in books and see in movies or watch on TV. And I can’t just read or watch; I totally immerse myself in the contemplation of the stories in the back of my mind or late at night as I try to fall asleep. I love the idea of story. I love to think about life as a story and webs of intersecting, tangling, combining, and passing stories. There’s a line in one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who that I think inspired this outlook: “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.”
Of course life differs from stories in so many ways. Real life, or at least my life, lacks – most of the time anyway – the adventure and romance of stories. Today marked six months since the day that changed everything. It brought to mind the Taylor Swift song “If This Was a Movie,” which lead me to thinking about how life doesn’t play out like stories, no matter how hard we wish it would.
Storybook moments don’t happen in real life. That’s why they are called “storybook moments.” In real life you don’t get happy endings either. Only in a book or on screen can you stop the story and freeze time in the perfect moment. Orson Welles put it perfectly when he said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” In real life the story doesn’t stop at the “happy ending.” It doesn’t end. It keeps going past that happy moment to a lifetime of more moments both good and bad.
That’s not to say that life is devoid of moments or – if you’re really lucky – days, that are worthy of a movie. Looking through old diaries, I found an entry that began this way: life is worth living if only for the fairytale moments and occasional movie endings. I have experienced a few of those moments that were so perfect that it seemed as though a page from a novel had made its way into real life. Those are the moments that I treasure and hold onto because I know that the “happy ending” won’t last. I look back on my storybook moments when things get hard to remind myself of what is good and beautiful about life.
I think the only way to get a happy ending in life is to accumulate more good moments than bad ones. I think a happy ending would be to look back on your life without regret and see that despite the pain and struggles, there were many high points too. I don’t think you can just wait for storybook moments to happen to you. I think most of the time you have to put in the work to achieve your dreams from which those moments seem to flow. And sometimes, when we’re very lucky, they do ‘just happen’ when you’re not looking. And honestly those ones are the most magical.
I wish there was a “how” to finding your happy ending, but unfortunately I don’t think there is. And even if there was, I think the path is different for everyone. I haven’t figured out mine yet, but I’m going to keep looking until I do.