Despite my best attempts to hide the fact, I have to admit that I’m a sucker for a happy ending. In fact, if my chosen form of entertainment doesn’t have a satisfyingly cheery finish, I’m often left wondering why I bothered! It’s become so bad, that if I catch even a hint that a book or a movie is going to leave me sadder than it found me (despite how good it may be), I won’t even start it.
A friend lent me the first Game of Thrones book about a month ago knowing how much I enjoy the fantasy genre. After making a valiant attempt, I got about halfway through and had to go and read two other (less death filled) books instead. I may come back to it, but honestly it seems unlikely. To put it mildly, it wasn’t a very happy book!
Perhaps it’s a side effect of living in a developing nation where stories of loss and hardship are all too common and very real. Or maybe my preferences have simply changed. Whatever caused it, I haven’t always felt this way. In fact, many of my favourite books from my childhood and teenage years are notably sad.
Storm Boy (Colin Thiele), Goodnight Mr Tom (Michelle Magorian), The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton) and Seven Little Australians (Ethel Turner) are a few that come to mind. As well as being wonderful stories, they’re all books where *spoiler alert* the main character or characters experience a really devastating tragedy.
I remember reading them and coming away from each with a profound sense of having just experienced something really sad, yet incredibly beautiful. There was a depth of emotion that couldn’t be reached by the happy days and small fixable troubles of Nancy Drew mysteries and Baby Sitters Club books.
In my current search for movies and novels where nothing bad really happens (a mid-story minor complication is acceptable) a happy ending is guaranteed, but I never come away with the sense that I really felt anything. They’re fun, but little more. Mark Twain once said “what is joy without sorrow? what is success without failure? what is a win without a loss? what is health without illness? you have to experience each if you are to appreciate the other.”
It can be hard to accept that (in this life at least), finding happiness also means that we will find sadness. But the truth is that what brings us the most joy also has the greatest power to hurt us. We experience the most intense pain when we are hurt by the people we love the most and it’s the hardest when we lose the people that are dearest to us.
We feel the most because we have the most to lose.
I know I find it easy sometimes to stay in my own comfort zone. It’s never hard to do what’s familiar and safe. But I also know that I can’t hide from life. If I never put myself out there because I’m afraid of getting hurt or experiencing pain, I’ll never experience the joys of life either. To truly experience life, I have to accept both the good and the bad.
So during the next few months, I’m going to make a special effort to step out of my comfort zone. I want to meet new people and make new friends, even if I know they’re going to leave soon. Instead of worrying over what could go wrong I want to expect the best. I’d like to start a new project, even if there’s potential for failure. And I’m going to learn to be ok with the discomfort of sadness again, even if it means I miss out on happy endings. Who knows, I might even finish Game of Thrones.
Anna Waite hails from Brisbane, Australia. She enjoys travel, good coffee and getting to hang out with awesome people from around the world!