Sometimes we are going to make mistakes. To grow, we have to embrace our missteps — we have to open our eyes so we can learn from them.
There is no such thing as a perfect life. There will always be bumps. There will always be issues. Problems happen even in the best relationships and jobs. Life is not about avoiding problems — it is about solving problems you cannot imagine not solving.
Last week, I mentioned I was working on a letter titled “The Art of Saying Goodbye.” My plan was to share it with you this weekend, but life does not always go as planned.
After re-writing the letter multiple times, I had a feeling something was missing. While talking on the phone with my mom last night, I realized what that was: I chose the wrong story.
In the letter, I talk about letting go of certain relationships. I explain that not every relationship needs to last forever. Some people are only meant to come into our lives momentarily. Sometimes these people will show us who we are and who we are not. Sometimes we will even pave new roads with these people — roads we never could have made without them. Because of these people, we will become stronger and wiser than we were before.
To illustrate this topic, I wrote a story about a phone call I had with an old friend from New York. I explained how that phone call reminded me that our friendship had faded and how we were no longer the people we used to be.
After the phone call, I looked out my window feeling both sad and grateful. I was sad that our friendship was no longer as strong, but I was also grateful that our friendship happened. Nothing is guaranteed in life and I know I am lucky for having traveled on the roads I have. I am lucky for every friend I have made, no matter how brief our exchange was.
In theory, this story sounded perfect to me. However, after writing it, my feelings changed. As I typed the letter, I felt I was going through the motions. At first, I thought I was tired but my lack of enthusiasm never went away, even after a good night’s sleep.
Finally, I sent the letter to my mom and I asked her what she thought. I was unsure if I liked the letter and I wanted to know her opinion. She agreed with me. Something felt missing to her too. My writing did not feel alive.
The two of us then read the letter together. We wanted to see if we could find what was wrong. She read the letter out loud to me, and at that moment, I noticed what the issue was. The story I wrote was not really a story. It was just information.
When I explained the conversation between my friend and me, I regurgitated all the things you would expect old friends to talk about. We told each other what we have been up to and that we missed one another. But this does not make for a good story. It was not the kind of story I wanted to tell and I could feel that in my writing.
The past few weeks I have been trying to hone my writing skills. Lately, you might have noticed a slight change in my style. For example, I have been incorporating more stories. Stories are powerful. As humans, we need them. The way we remember most things is through stories.
When I first began this newsletter, my writing was direct. I rarely incorporated stories. There was a poetic undertone in my words, but the overall message was up front. I would explain a lesson and that would be it. This approach is great for social media, but not-so much for longer form writing. Often, the most memorable pieces of writing are told through stories. This is because our brains process things through pictures. A story is essentially a collection of pictures — it is a collection of pictures in the mind.
I have no background in storytelling, or even writing for that matter. Every day I am learning. Every day I am discovering things I never knew. This week I learned one thing that every good story needs. Something needs to happen in a story. There needs to be action. This action does not need to be big, and in fact, it is preferable if the action is small. Storytelling is about relatability. It is about the writer and reader sharing a moment together — it is about them connecting through a shared experience.
The letter I wrote this week lacked that moment because my heart was somewhere else. My heart left because there was no imagery in the words. Maybe it is possible to tell a story about a phone call, but I am not that good of a writer yet. To get excited, I need to be able to paint a picture in my mind. Without a picture, my writing becomes mechanical and that is not the kind of work I want to share.
Luckily, there is always a lesson to be learned, even in our failings. This week I learned I need movement in my stories — something needs to happen — otherwise my heart drifts away. Unfortunately, this means the letter I planned to share this week is not ready. I need to find another story to illustrate the message. I am not sure when it will be ready, but I am alright with that. Sometimes mistakes have to be made.
Sometimes we need to fall. Sometimes there is something on the ground we need to see — something we cannot see standing up. We cannot expect life to always run smoothly. No matter how beautiful a road looks, there will always be bumps. There will always be missteps. However, if we open our hearts, missteps can be beautiful. Every misstep or mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow. It is a chance to turn our world into something better than it was. There is nothing more exciting than that.
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