Comparing life to a book is not an uncommon cliché; it’s used in so many ways. Whether it be starting a new “chapter”, turning over a “new leaf”, or starting a “fresh page”, the relationship between life and a book can be found all around us, in everyday conversation and literature. The regular use of this comparison has, perhaps, made it less meaningful to us: hearing something often enough begins to cause us to dismiss it as irrelevant, or unimportant. However, the analogy itself is, in my opinion, actually a very accurate one, and I’d like to explain why.
The opening of a book sets the scene, introduces a character or two, and sets the overall mood of the story, along with the genre. The opening of a life, if that is how it is to be regarded, serves a similar purpose, although the messages are a little less clear than they are in a written text. The main character – you – is, I think we can agree, introduced, and although you may not know it, the scene is, in a way, also set. Despite what we are told and often what we prefer to tell ourselves, our family generally can dictate a lot of our traits and features of our lifestyles. The amount of money, for example, can have an impact on our childhoods, who looks after us initially as babies, and then as toddlers and young children; family class can affect our childhood social circles and social routine; our family’s religion can, at least during the early years, have an impact on how we perceive the world around us. And so, despite having done very little ourselves, besides crying a little and feeding, our early years – our openings, if you will – are already set, an unwritten and admittedly vague plan of our first years on this planet already prepared.
The next chapter, or several chapters in a book often tell of a problem or a situation, with details being revealed as the story is told. In fairytales, for example, there is often a princess who is in a form of distress: Cinderella was a poor girl, forced to work day after day with no reward, whilst the two “ugly sisters” live the life of luxury at her expense. In life, the first years, including the teenage years, are the years in which the story is built up, a situation created. Over these years, interests are realised and hobbies are found, strengths are unveiled and, over time, a bigger picture is produced. A life, with different aspects to it is created, each stroke of the paint brush at a time, forming a picture not to dissimilar to that formed in the initial chapters of a storybook. Although the bigger picture has been revealed, nothing has happened yet: the action is slow and carefully executed, leaving the bigger things for later on in life – later on in the book.
At this point in the story, the action begins. Cinderella goes to the ball, meets her Prince and loses the slipper, if we’re to continue with the fairytale analogy. Suddenly, school is over in life, the teenage years [and the processes of growing up] are drawing to a close, and we’re told that now is when things happen. Now, we join the real world, develop on everything that we’ve discovered about ourselves over the last 18 years. Now, we can go to university, or get a job, or start a family, or start a business, or go travelling. Now, we are free, and it’s time to create that Cinderella-meets-Prince moment. I’m not just referring to that in a romantic sense, although undoubtedly some people will find love, whilst the lucky ones will find life-long love. But for everyone, it’s time to act upon the situation, or life, which has been built up over the first section of your life. Your talent for, say, music could now lead to a career, or your passion for sport could finally lead to a club try-out, or even a professional contract. Although you may not realise it, everything you go on to do would be impossible if you had not taken that time beforehand to build up your skills, strengths, talents, hobbies – everything that defines you as a person, that makes up your situation.
As we come towards the end of the book, we now find a hapy ending. Cinderella, after losing the glass slipper, eventually gets it back on, and the prince realises that she is the princess for him. They marry and live happily ever after. This section is perhaps the longest in life: this is being an adult. In life, this is when you’ve found a job, or started a family. This is the part where you’re settled, and you have something – at least one thing – stable, rock solid, even if it’s just for now. Who said that Cinderella and the Prince didn’t split up after their honeymoon, anyway? Sure, the process to that happy, stable place may not be the smoothest road: Cinderella lost her slipper, but she was reunited with it and her Prince in the end. The best singers don’t just fly to success: they work, are rejected countless times, face negative comments, primarily from the Internet these days, but they push forward. JK Rowling, being the usual example, was rejected fourteen times [I think?] before a publisher accepted Harry Potter – imagine if she hadn’t pushed on, kept going?
Your happy ending exists, and is achieveable, so long as you’re prepared to face a potentially bumpy road to reach it. I suppose the message I’m attempting to convey with this post is that life is indeed compareable to a book, and that each stage, chapter, section – whatever you want to call it – serves a purpose, and is absolutely necessary to all future stages of life. Without one of those shapters in a book, the story wouldn’t make sense, and then how would the happy ending be achieved?
Don’t rush life along: you only live it once, and if each stage of it is required in the future, you may as well enjoy them while they’re still happening, mightn’t you?