I Used to Be ____________.
If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. At some point in your life, at some stage in your story, you will feel as everything is too much.
Perhaps it is a hole you dug. Maybe it wasn’t your fault at all. Maybe someone led you there. Maybe it just happened. Either way you are in it well over your head.
It feels like finding yourself in a sand storm that envelopes and covers everything good.
The sky is dark. The sun hidden. Everywhere you look you see brown. Even a dark storm cloud would be a welcome site. But sand fills your mouth and nostrils. You try to drink water, but as you swallow instead of washing away the grit, you choke on it, coughing up more brown.
In this moment there is only darkness. And dryness. And biting wind. And sand.
The hard part is being in that kind of moment. You tend to look back and be angry about the decisions you made leading to it. You want to find someone to blame, especially somebody besides yourself. You keep wondering “what if?” You replay in your mind certain pivotal decisions, wishing somehow you could change it all.
This moment can be so intense and overwhelming, you lose your ability to see.
Every Good Story
The stories we remember the most have a certain statement in them. The story heads in one direction and then at some point it turns. And the storyteller says:
I used to be _____________.
Think about it. Your favorite movie likely has this moment. Your real-life hero has traveled through such a moment. They used to be one thing, but then something changed and now they are different. And it is this change in them that led to the action that created the beauty and wonder of their story.
What fills the blank varies from person to person.
- I used to be an orphan.
- I used to be in so much debt I could never imagine breathing again.
- I used to be rich, but I found something better.
- I used to a risk-taker.
- I used to play it safe.
- I used to be overweight.
- I used to be afraid to commit.
- I used to be too scared to do anything of importance.
Writers call this moment an inciting incident. And every good story has one.
An incident is simply an event. But when we use that specific word, we are typically referring to something seemingly minor that leads to something much bigger. The consequences are out of proportion with the event itself.
An example might be the minor occurrence that leads to a war. Or something that happened in history that resulted in being called to the principal’s office.
To incite means “to stimulate or prompt to action.” If you find yourself incited, you can’t help but do. You can’t sit still any longer. You won’t be able to remain quiet. Action will come.
A slightly more poetic definition would be “to stir.”
Your sand storm is an opportunity. That moment that feels to be too much. The one that makes you pause and wonder where you went wrong. The one filled with regret and pain and fear and despair. The moment when the entire world crashes down on you.
Perhaps the place you find yourself in right now?
This storm is an inciting incident.
This place is an opportunity. A chance to respond. To do. To stir.
It is a chance to make changes, to shift your story, so that one day you will say, “I used to be _____________.”
What is stirring inside of you? What did you “use to be?”
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