We all get hung up on finding happily-ever-afters.
After all, we were practically raised on them.
Every film, every storybook, every plotline we consumed growing up faded out in the same way: the two characters you loved best got together. Their problems dissolved. There were never any more moving forward.
They lived ‘happily ever after.’
And so we started believing that our own stories would end that way too.
Of course, we all moved on from this mindset at some point. We all recognized that fairytales aren’t valid, that we are not damsels in distress, and that they concept of ‘happily-ever-after’ is a whole lot more complicated than we assumed it to be.
And yet some part of us still always seems to be searching for it.
We look for airtight resolutions to all of our problems. For peace to follow every disruption. For our stories to tie up neatly and cleanly before we can move on to our next major chapter or plot point.
We still want those happily-ever-afters. We just don’t always recognize them as such.
But this mindset can ultimately trip us up. Because in real life, stories don’t always come with happy endings.
Sometimes in the end, we lose the person we wanted to spend our lives with. We can’t save the person we wanted to save. We work endlessly to accomplish something that our whole heart and soul is invested in, and still fail. We still come up short.
These occurrences shake us – because they veer off script from the ‘happily ever after’ we had planned out.
And yet we never pause to consider that maybe that our stories were never actually meant to end happily.
Maybe we were mistaking our lives for romcoms or dramas when they were just meant to be stories about strength. About reinvention. About coming back from what we thought we couldn’t come back from and moving forward in a brave new way.
Because here is the truth about grown-up stories: the best ones don’t always end happily.
They end truthfully. They end honestly. They end in a way that highlights and sympathizes with the core of what it means to be human.
The best stories don’t take us away to a magical world where everything works out for everyone. The best stories bring us back to this world. They teach us how to cope with the sometimes harsh realities of living in it.
But as long as we are tirelessly searching for happy endings, we’re never going to see those lessons. We’re never going to allow ourselves to accept and grow from them.
The truth is, we all get so stuck on the conclusions we penned in our minds that we forget to just let our stories unfold.
Maybe you don’t understand the ending because you simply haven’t reached it yet.
Because you’re mistaking chapter ten for chapter twenty or thirty, and you still have pages and pages left to live through.
Maybe at the end of the story you end up alone. Maybe you end up with someone else. Maybe you end up somewhere you couldn’t possibly imagine from where you’re standing now.
Maybe there are twelve thousand opportunities for alternate happy endings sitting right in front of you but you won’t entertain them because you’re so hopelessly hung up on the one you didn’t get.
Maybe you could be perfectly happy with the ending that you did get, if you’d let yourself.
Or if you’d simply stop to realize, after all of this time, that you’ve been the one holding the pen all along.