One of my favorite movies is 500 Days of Summer, which is about a young man (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who falls in love with the wrong woman (played by Zooey Deschanel). After she breaks up with him, he is heartbroken and goes into a downward spiral, staying in bed all day, eating junk food, walking around outside in his bathrobe, and quitting his job. But in my favorite scene in the movie, he finally gets out of bed and starts taking steps to make his life better. He pursues his dream of becoming an architect by doing research on architecture, sketching buildings, and going on job interviews. Here is the scene below:
Another scene I really like is from the movie Legally Blonde, where Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon) is also in love with the wrong person. When she finally realizes that nothing she does will ever be enough to win his love, she sets out to prove that he's wrong about her. She dedicates herself to her studies as a Harvard law student and ends up excelling in her classes. Here is the scene below:
What I like about both movies is that the "happy ending" for both protagonists is not really about finding true love (although they do both meet new people). It's about their work and their passion for it. Their work gives them a new purpose; it gives them something to focus on other than their heartbreak. They find meaning in their lives by dedicating themselves to their work, and they end up redefining themselves as a result.
After what happened with the Model, I spent a lot of time in bed, listening to angry breakup songs from the 90s (You rock, Fiona Apple. You too, Alanis Morissette.) I ate too much junk food and gained weight.
I thought about dating again, but the idea of poring over profiles of guys who stole pictures from fitness models (thank you, Reverse Image Search), lied about their age, or posed with pictures of dead animals they hunted just made me want to climb back into bed, turn on the angry breakup songs, and reach for the ice cream again.
I thought about the happiest moment in my life. It wasn't when I was in the Model's arms. It wasn't when I stood in front of my students in the classroom. It was the time I read a short story I wrote to a bar full of strangers at an open mic night in Tennessee three years ago, and my story made them laugh. Other writers at the open mic came up to me afterwards and complimented me on my writing. I was so scared to read my work in front of other people, but their positive reactions to my writing made me happy.
For the last two years, I've been working on two books, including a memoir, Obsessions of a Workaholic. It's basically a book-length version of this blog. I went through old blog posts and realized that I could turn them into a linear narrative by rewriting them and fleshing them out. I also realized that the posts I wrote about online dating could be turned into a separate memoir about dating.
I wrote in my office at the school where I teach, between classes and appointments with students. I wrote in the coffee shops on campus. I wrote at my desk in my apartment. I filled up several notebooks with my writing, and then I typed out the first draft of Obsessions of a Workaholic into my computer. When I printed it out, it ended up being about 193 single-spaced pages (more than 156,000 words). So obviously, I have a lot of editing to do.
I'm going to spend the summer revising my draft. Then, I'll learn how to write query letters and do research on literary agents. If I can't get an agent, I'll pitch my book to indie publishers who don't require agents. If that doesn't work, I'll self-publish it. I really believe in this book, and I want to put it out there, especially after years of letting my writing pile up in notebooks. (There are literally stacks of notebooks all over my apartment.) I've also written a draft of my online dating memoir, so once I finish the first book, I'll get back to revising the second one.
Despite all the other crap in my life (and in the world in general), writing is the one thing that always makes me feel happy when I do it. I might never become anyone's girlfriend or wife, and even if I do, it won't happen with him. But I think I could make my dream of becoming a published author come true. And that is my own happy ending.
What about you? What does your happy ending look like?