I have been wanting to write a blog post for a while now, but each time I sit down to write a blog post I have too many ideas which makes it hard to focus on just one message. I am constantly writing and rewriting one rough draft after another which has made me realize, that this only parallels with the lives that we are living. We are constantly outlining and making changes to our lives to improve different aspects.
We outline our lives in the same way that we outline the start of an essay. Many of us begin by making a bullet list of ideas we wish to include in our essay. In our lives, this bullet list may be an outline of the different goals we wish to accomplish. These goals typically include getting your license, graduating high school, going to college, getting married, buying a house, and so on. These goals then flow in order the same way that one paragraph flows to the next. However, we are constantly editing and making changes to these paragraphs so that we can submit our best work. Prior to starting the essay, we may also conduct research to improve our knowledge in the same way you might research a new recipe or place before traveling there. As the essay progresses, we correct our grammatical errors in the same way that we correct our mistakes in life – we go back and make things right. We also choose to erase some of the paragraphs written in pencil while others are written in permanent marker and leave little room for editing. Regardless, we are constantly writing and rewriting one rough draft after another until we reach the conclusion where everything comes full circle – just like life.
Think about your life as an essay in which Heaven is the drop box for your final draft – because after all, we are all here writing our own eulogies. Whoever reads your eulogy didn’t create the bullet list – the outline is already there for them. They didn’t do the hours of research and spend late nights at the library – you did. And they weren’t the ones who revised your essay and made improvements – those were your decisions. The paragraphs you write eventually become chapters, which evolve into a story made to be left on a bookshelf for future generations to come. The one who reads your eulogy, simply has the honor and privilege to open up the book and begin telling your story.
So, when was the last time you revised your rough draft? When was the last time you added to your bullet list? When was the last time you picked up the pen? There is no limit to the number of rough drafts you create and no letter grade for your final essay. Life is not pass or fail.
My initial rough draft arguably began as a fairytale. Life had shown me no wrong to think that life was nothing but a fairytale. Other than the anxiety that accompanied me through my childhood, my rough draft continued to evolve in a standard way. I checked the traditional goals off my bullet list like becoming a Girl Scout and learning how to ride a bike, with little need for revisions. However, as I grew older, I learned that there are many different genres to the stories we read. I am writing a non-fictional book (or arguably an autobiography), yet there are still some chapters my mind wants to believe are fictional. Some of the traumas I’ve blacked out may be the reason why a few pages are missing in these chapters… Yet, the plot is ever evolving with many plot twists, cliff hangers, and ironies, with characters who come and go.
My rough draft is constantly changing. If you asked me 5 years ago, what chapter I’d be currently writing, I would have told you Chapter 22: The one where Holly goes to grad school for PT… but life had a different plan for me and that’s okay. All we have to do is simply go back and revise – it won’t change the ending or maybe it will, but that’s the greatest cliff hanger of them all.
We all know how disappointing it is when we read a book with a predictable ending. It’s the plot twists and cliff hangers that prevent us from putting the “page turner” down. So why is it that we get anxious about the unknown? Shouldn’t the cliff hanger excite us and make us want to keep turning the page? No one ever stopped reading a book because they were scared of what might happen next; instead, they were enthralled and decided to turn the page. In life, we can’t just put the book down when things get tough; instead, we have to turn the page. Although in some situations putting the book down may seem like the easier option, next time you are faced with the unknown, choose to be enthralled by the depths of uncertainty and turn the page. Situations as such may make us want to revert back to the fairytale written in chapters 1-5, but books weren’t written to be read backwards. So, make your book the “page turner” no one can put down and the talk at every girl’s book club by choosing to embrace the beauty in life’s unknown.
These past few years have taught me that I want my story to be anything but a fairytale. Although I do wish for a happy ending, the consistent happiness of a fairytale would make it impossible to appreciate it’s value. We can’t recognize the true value of happiness unless it is taken away from us, which makes us value it more when its present.
I am continuously revising and editing my essay. My bullet list now includes goals such as becoming an oncology nurse, a yoga instructor, running the Boston marathon, and traveling the world, all with one overarching goal; to meet as many different people as I can, from as many different walks of life. These goals are a product of the different adverse events in my life. They are a product of the plot twists I found enthralling and the reasons why I kept turning the page.
Back in chapters 1-18, if you told me that I’d become a nurse one day – the little girl who had to be pinned down by two nurses for her flu shot wouldn’t have believed you. If you told me that I was going to travel the world – my homebody self wouldn’t have believed you. If you told me that I was going to lose my best friend to cancer along the way, I also wouldn’t have believed you. However, if you told me that I was going to give up along the way, only then would I have believed you. But it’s the lack of plot twists and adverse events in chapters 1-18 that would have made the story too predictable right?
These plot twists forced me to look at life through a different lens. I substituted my reading glasses for a new perspective on life and was forced to revise my bullet list. Losing my sister to cancer at such a young age has been the most unexpected plot twist in my story and perhaps the question, “why do bad things happen to good people?” is still the biggest mystery of them all. However, after I reread the text, highlighted key words, and did some additional research, I was finally able to understand the lesson. I learned the value in living life to the fullest and gained a drive so big to do so that I can’t even put the pen down.
My story doesn’t flow together in the format of a traditional plot line. My story has multiple climax in which these turning points have forced me to continuously reread the text before I can fully understand the message it is conveying. Sometimes it feels like I am reading a chemistry textbook in which I have to reread the textbook five different times before I can understand the content – sometimes it even feels like I’m reading a textbook in a different language. Yet life works in a similar way. We don’t always understand the lesson linked to an experience the first time around, in the same way that we don’t always understand the message an author is trying to convey the first time we read it. But after rereading the text, we pick up on context clues we weren’t receptive to the first time around and become more aware. So, next time you get frustrated with life, just reread the text until it makes sense; maybe even highlight a few different words to help improve your understanding. It won’t even delay your progress or slow you down – we all learn at different rates.
I have written countless rough drafts; I’ve even crumpled some of them up and thrown them in a trashcan because that is simply life’s frustration. However, this frustration can be redirected by focusing our time on edits and revisions. So don’t get too frustrated. Don’t cram. Don’t keep saying you’ll do it tomorrow. Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Don’t wait until you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness to start writing. Pick up the pen now. Because if the due date was tomorrow, would you be ready to submit your final draft?
There is no page limit to the books we write. So, my advice to you is to never stop researching, revising, and editing. Continue to make improvements because unfortunately, there is no sequel to our eulogies or to this book that we call life. Never stop improving until your final draft is to be handed over to a higher power; until everything has come full circle and you have reached the conclusion.
You are the author. Get busy writing.