Ben Borgers

The Redemption Arc Is Coming

March 8, 2022

When humans tell stories, they like to tell them with a redemption arc. A happy ending.

In fact, I learned in middle school that you can’t have a story without a conflict. The character starts out okay, goes through some sort of conflict with someone/something/themselves, and comes out on top — and boom, you’ve written a bestselling young adult novel. Without that conflict and then overcoming the conflict, the story would be boring.

But in reality, current life usually doesn’t feel like a moment you can tell with a happy ending. You feel stressed right now, or things aren’t going your way, or things just generally don’t have a happy ending. There’s no redemption arc.

In your current story, you started out doing okay, came into conflict with some sort of problem, and… you’re still there. The homework’s still piling up. You’re still lonely. Things don’t feel right.

So what I’d like to believe in moments (long stretches) like this is that you just find yourself at the bottom of a story you’ll tell one day. You’re just halfway through. You’re at the part where you come into contact with obstacles.

This will be a story you tell people one day — about how that class was a goddamn struggle but you made it and you’re happy it’s over now, or that you really didn’t know what you were gonna do in the summer after freshman year but you eventually figured it out and everything went okay. Or even that you never found something solid to do in the summer after your freshman year, but after college things ended up working out anyway.

If you zoom out far enough, there will always be a redemption arc. When times aren’t good, they won’t stay that way forever. You’re just going through the conflict in this story.

But given enough time, things always get better. And eventually, you’ll be able to tell this story with a happy ending too.