The journey of a heroine is filled with peril and adventure, twists and turns, love and heartbreak. But through it all, what is most important is the heroine’s character growth through the hardships and stumbling blocks thrown in her path.
She must not wait for the world to happen to her nor be resigned to whatever fate should befall her; instead, she must be proactive and fight back. Even if she makes mistakes along the way, even if her decisions cause all hell to break loose, and even if she ends up with emotional scars that might never fade.
It’s amazing how the story I’ve been working on for the past five years is actually teaching me how to live my own life as I revise my main character’s journey and growth. Art imitates life. (Or is it, life imitates art?)
In any case, the way I’m being forced to evolve in my life is a mirror image of where I must take my protagonist, Rilla, on her journey to become who she is supposed to be.
I once dubbed myself the Whimsical Wallflower. Quick history lesson. Back in Victorian England, girls who stood by the wall in the ballroom and never asked to dance were called wallflowers. This wasn’t necessarily because they were total introverts who never talked or because they were ugly. It could have been that they lacked social status or were considered outcasts for whatever reason, including that they were too “well-read.”
I’ve always felt like a wallflower, overlooked and underestimated. Rather than let that bother me, I chose to describe my “wallflower-ness” with my favorite adjective—whimsical. And it’s this adjective I allow to define me because it sums up who I am—imaginative, eccentric, quirky, fanciful. I don’t see these things as bad traits even though some might call me unpractical with my head always stuck in the clouds. But to me, defining myself as whimsical has given me the confidence to keep my head held high and to ignore the negative and condescending voices telling me that my dreams are silly.
But here’s the thing. Sometimes those negative voices get too loud to drown out, and I let them get to me. Back in May, I got some feedback on my novel about how my protagonist was sitting back and letting the world happen to her instead of taking charge of her own life and doing things to actively change her fate.
For several months, I couldn’t write at all. I was paralyzed with self-doubt, staring at the words and a blinking cursor with no clue how to fix the story.
By the time July rolled around, I was so ready for a vacation. And then my birthday came, and that same weekend, more bad news. My parents sold our house. The same house where I was born and where I’ve lived all my life. Where I met the best of my friends, and where I’ve made so many of my greatest memories.
So as I left for Canada, my heart felt rather heavy.
But going on this vacation gave me some time for self-reflection. I thought about how for the past few years around my birthday, something major happens that forces me to grow up just a little bit more.
At 30, I threw myself a big birthday bash and celebrated the milestone. This was the year I learned that age means nothing when my heart is filled with joy and youth.
Before my 31st birthday, I attended a writers conference and found my tribe. This was the year I learned to be confident in using my voice and continue pursuing my dreams because the only thing worse than rejection is regret.
For my 32nd birthday, it was a bittersweet year. I celebrated by going on my dream vacation to Prince Edward Island, and on my last day there, my grandfather passed away. This was the year I learned to sail my own ship with fearlessness and faith in the footsteps of my grandfather.
Which now leads me to my 33rd birthday. It is the end of another chapter as I am forced to let go of the only home I’ve ever known. But aside from the pangs of nostalgic memories and childhood reveries, there has to be a deeper lesson God is trying to teach me. I spent the last week trying to figure it out.
Five days in Toronto.
I sit here now and as I sift through the pictures, I begin to see the theme of the lesson I’m supposed to learn.
I see it in the courage it took to brave my fear of heights and go up to the top of the CN Tower to look out at the night lights and the city.
I see it in the thrill of getting drenched as I rode the boat into the shrouded mists of Niagara Falls, and I have never laughed harder with strangers and friends, new and old.
And I see it in the thousands of colorful glowing lights in the stadium at the Taylor Swift concert. Being connected with all those other people, with their hearts, for that one moment in time. Being in the moment and not thinking of anything but living in pure joy and elation at the opportunity to just be there, celebrating life and music and art.
If I had decided to stay in my safe, familiar corner of the world, I would never have experienced any of this.
So my takeaway from this trip is this:
It goes back to how we are all protagonists in our own stories, but we can’t let the world simply happen to us. Rather, we must be proactive and take charge for us to experience true growth. For us to experience life and genuine joy.
Before I left my grandmother’s house last week, my uncle repeated this lesson, though I’d never told him it was what I was struggling with in writing my novel. He meant for me to apply the lesson to my own life. He told me that I need to stop letting the world happen to me and to be proactive. To not run away from my problems but to confront them. Because that’s the only way I’ll ever gain the freedom and independence I’m looking for.
And it seems my next step in life is to go out and live on my own. It’s scary, and I haven’t done it since my college days (even then, I went home every weekend), but it’s time. I’ve always felt like a bird with no wings, but I think it’s because I chose to hide those wings. Well, now I’ve discovered they were there all along, just waiting for me to use them to become who I’m supposed to be and soar into the sky.