In last week’s post, I offered to help readers and fans of our project through storytelling. The continuing idea is to tell me a problem you’re having, and in return, I will think about it, and then tell you a story.
There’s a reason stories are helpful and should be valued. Stories have continued to be an immutable aspect of our humanity since the dawn of time. If you disagree, find out how long you can make it through your day without a story.
Thus, a great story stays with us our entire lives.
Last week, a fan of our project wrote to tell me of his current antagonist: An ongoing divorce.
I’ve written about perseverance, finishing, and sacrifice, but one thing I have not written about yet is quitting. Is there a time to quit?
No, never. That’s why I don’t write about it.
But there is a time for divorce. Quitting halts growth, quitting is giving up, quitting is admitting defeat. But divorce is not the same thing as quitting. Divorce allows growth to continue.
The root in Latin, “divertere,” divided and diverted to become the word “divorce.” Even the word itself continued to mean new things. Divorce, in it’s seed, means little more than to divert: to turn aside from a path, to separate, to divide.
But not to quit.
I was married once. Well, at least, I thought it was marriage. It lasted 10 years – that’s marriage, right? When we first met, I was barely out of my teens, I had that pitter pat in my soul, the feeling you get at first sight, when you know it’s real and you know it will last forever. Elation and romance. She kissed me with her sun, charmed me with her elegance, and seduced me with her beauty.
When she knew she’d been won, we moved in together; We went to the best parties, we took a job I’d only dreamed about, and she constantly encouraged me every day to believe anything is possible. We met our best friends together, she even taught me new languages, and she always opened my eyes to another way of life. I’d won the prize, and we both knew it, because jealous onlookers stared with envy at us: We looked good together, really good.
But it was her own rich story, with all it’s depths, soul, and romance that I was in love with. And it wasn’t long before we were wrapped around each other’s fingers so close we were sure we’d never leave each other's sight, forward into the infinite.
If you’ve met her, you’ve probably also been charmed by her.
I tried to make it work with her, I really did.
See, the thing about Europe is, on the surface, she is as magical as I described, there’s no question about it. She’ll seduce you, she might even love you, but she’ll leave you questioning. And those aren’t your questions - it’s hers you are hearing, she is challenging you to answer. And her allure is always going to pull you back in, punishing you worse each time, until your answer satisfies.
She’ll anger you, she’ll depress you, she’ll break things you expect to work, and she’ll do the opposite of what you ask or expect. Her game can be tantalizing because those callous free winds are so easily summoned, right alongside enchanted nights under a castle with live music played by exotic bands floating down a glowing river, all orchestrated to charm, mystify and defeat you.
Because what makes Europe enticing is also what has existed long before you arrived. Yours are just one of many footsteps, and she is not your test. Your test only passes through her.
The Earth Between
No adventure comes without peril. Neither does a marriage. I felt at one time that I must be walking on some kind of a magic beam.
I wanted an adventure, and adventure is just another word for excitement, right?
Once I had my backpack on, and I flew over the Atlantic to meet her, we kicked it off with reckless abandon: Everything happened so serendipidously, so evidently magic, and with such rising action, that I could never imagine what was to come next. I could tell you about these days and nights, and eventually maybe I will, but I will say for now that my lover’s promises of an interesting life were well kept...
Until, suddenly it all crashed. Then faded.
I followed my bliss, but eventually the beam was gone. It disappeared. I couldn’t find it. A path that served me so well was faded. Why? I honestly do not know.
Perhaps because I was not really married. (No, of course, you can’t marry a continent.) But, what I mean is this: A love affair is not a marriage. You wanted an adventure? Well, here’s your dragon to conquer. Oh, you don't want trouble? Then why don’t you just call it a vacation? Yours is a mirage, stop calling it a marriage.
A Diverted Path
There I was, lost in the forest. I wandered for years, trying to spark a flame that had burned so intensely, so warmly, and so deeply. But at every turn, she told me "No," this is not the path back to her. I pleaded, turned angry, I blamed her and shouted: “Stop being difficult - I already won you! You are now mine, stop your games!”
These are dangerous words for any man.
I traced my steps.
I was given opportunities to make my life in Europe work, but I ate the dessert first. The beam never faded, nor did it disappear. The path diverted and I simply wanted it to follow me. But it doesn’t work that way. Growth has nothing to do with what you want. Growth has everything to do with pain.
The love affair was over, and since quitting meant admitting I was never really married, I had a hard time leaving it.
It took me a long time to admit this. Doesn’t leaving it mean that all those memories, investments, experiences, and all the magic was for nothing? This is a frightening question.
Once I had the answer, I knew what I needed to do. I needed a divorce.
I left her and started over. With a new love, of course.
But that’s the great thing about a divorce. It’s only a diversion. The love never disappears, it never fades, it’s always there, and I can pick up where I left off, with whatever I choose to love. Because it’s love that remains: It was love that bound us in the first place. After all, ours were just one set of many footsteps. We are not love's test. We are merely passing through her. And she will remain.
I could also remain where I was, looking backward as she faded further away in the distance. Lost in a forest where the path refused to follow me. Or, I could be honest with myself.
The path had diverted, and so I diverted too.
Even if we only see each other from time to time, we never quit. In fact, we continue to grow. And I know, the next time we meet, we will be different, older, but somehow, strangely, we will be newer too. Because a tree’s roots do not stop growing just because the branches above are born and spread in their own direction.
Those memories, which often feel as if they were washed away in the rain, all the magic, all the dreams of a young man and his romantic love were not in vain. No, call it a marriage, call it a love affair, or simply call it what it really was: Living abroad in a daydream. Call it any human made title you want.
Those moments are still here. They still inform me, and they still beckon me towards that path which brought us together in the first place.
And since this path may divert, but never disappear, I know I still may visit, it’s there for me at any time, and however I choose to walk it.
The roots do not stop growing just because a tree has gone in the other direction. They continue to feed the tree, far below, deep into the past, strengthening the tree above.
And for this, the future will always be bright.
The Journey Continues
What is your story?
Tyler Gooden is the director of the upcoming film: TheFCStartMovie.com
This story is originally a part of the online journal. For more stories like this, you may also follow:
Or write him at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your own story.