Sad Stories

Time for some brutal honesty and reckless vulnerability, because that’s who I am.

Two years ago, I was discussing my writing ideas with a friend, and we realized how gloomy my imagination had become. She and I were working on a short film that I’d written in which all the characters die, but all of my solo works-in-progress were also about death or grief in some way.

She said, “Someone would think you were going through a dark time in your life,”

That comment struck me to the heart, because that was exactly what was going on.

Back when I was a teenager, my stories were full of drama and conflict, but rarely tragedy. I loved rewriting fairy tales, wrote a whole book based on the song Hot Air Balloon by Owl City, and my first short play was a goofy, adorable story about a girl teaching a blind boy about color.

At the time of this conversation with my friend, I had moved away from my family to do an internship where I felt mostly useless. I was finally only 20 minutes away from my long-distance boyfriend of three years, but I had never felt further from him. I was working a job where, if the hours and the pay hadn’t been so wonderfully consistent, I would have quit in a heartbeat due to all the drama and financial issues going on with the owners. I had a brutal anxiety attack over my relationship in December of 2015, and I haven’t been quite the same since.

I was indeed going through a dark time.

After nine months, my internship ended, and I left all the friends and the people who had come to feel like family to move back home. Shortly after returning home, almost exactly two years ago, I broke up with my boyfriend. At first, I was grateful, motivated, and hopeful. I got a job in retail I absolutely loved for about three months, and then I hated it for the next five months I worked there. I got my current job as a secretary, which was great until I hit a truck and had to take out a loan for the repairs, which forced me to get my second job. Some days those two jobs leave me exhausted and feeling like a loser. I made efforts to make friends that only left me feeling more isolated and alone. The people I spend the most time with are my teenage brother and sister, who I love dearly, but am still 5 and 7 years older than. I still live with my parents, and too many days I feel like I’ve gone back in time to being 16.

Yeah. I’m still going through ‘a dark time’.

But – I wrote a book. I wrote a book and published it within six months. That is stupidly cool. Good You Were Here is undeniably a very sad story. But what these dark times have taught me is that sad stories are usually the most beautiful ones. They are the ones that comfort me the most. When I read The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin and sobbed; when I watched Inside Out and cried my eyes out because I felt like I was watching my own childhood unravel; when I listen to Dear Evan Hansen and bawl because I relate to it so strongly it aches. Without the sad parts of those stories, I wouldn’t care. I wouldn’t remember them.

Tonight, I’m feeling incredibly sad. I feel lonely, hopeless, pretty pathetic. I don’t write this to get attention, to ask people to comfort me or reassure me. I write it to be real with people who I hope to connect with through my stories. Because what good am I doing this world if I write a bunch of happy, forgettable stories?

You know what the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read is? The end of A Tale of Two Cities, when Sydney Carton takes Charles Darnay’s place for the guillotine. I cried for about 45 minutes after I read that. But it changed me. It made my heart bigger; more open to beauty and hope and light. The more cracks in the heart, the more light can get in.

Like I said in my first post, life is a story made up of a billion little stories – story upon story upon story, overlapping between every person on earth. I write sad stories because they are human stories. And, as Tolkien put it, “We have come from God , and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour.”

Thanks for reading, God bless.

– Clare


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