Once upon a time, a girl grew up in the darkness.
She had no clue how other people lived
until one day she discovered the light.
As she followed the light, she found herself outside of the cave where she had been raised. For the first time in her life, she caught a glimpse of what she’d been missing. She was both elated at the discovery and saddened by the life her family had been living. Thus she began to search for her happiness.
Despite her relief at finding the light, the world outside the cave was almost too bright, for one thing, it seemed unpredictable and scary at times. In such moments, she found herself longing to go back into the darkness where life seemed safe and predictable. At the same time she knew such safety would also take away her freedom for she had been used as a slave by her family and now that her eyes were accustomed to the light, she’d struggle to see in the dark.
Sometimes she wished she’d been born a princess and had never known the darkness. Sad memories were lurking everywhere, and they often darkened her path adding anxiety. Even the smell of leather brought on panic attacks because it reminded her of the times she’d been beaten with a strap to appease someone else’s anger. Wherever the darkness fell, she heard the angry voices of her abusers and wondered if she’d ever find a good life.
As she stumbled over roots and rocks in her journey to get as far away from the cave as possible, she came around a bend and met an ancient woman who pulled back her shawl and offered her a leather book. She plugged her nose at the smell of the leather and noticed the old sage was bent over and her hands were gnarled. For a second, she held her crooked finger to her lips. Then she spoke in a low whisper, “Here’s a gift. It holds the secret to a happy life.”
The young girl was curious and wondered why the old woman would offer it to her, a stranger, but she accepted the book. The old woman continued in the opposite direction as the young girl opened up the book in impatience–only to discover it was full of blank pages. She turned and called out to the woman. “You tricked me! There’s nothing in this book!”
The old woman slowly turned around and with a face full of kindness replied, “Write in it, and you will find the key to happiness.”
The girl young rolled her eyes and continued her journey. That night, she lay under the stars and wondered about the mysterious meeting. In the early morning light, she sat up and began to write about it the woman and the book. She marveled at how far she had come and how much she had seen in such a short time. From then on writing became her habit and she even began to enjoy the scent of leather.
One day feeling lonely and discouraged, she thought she had nothing good to write about, but that was the day she began to write down her dreams. Each night when she sensed her day was a waste and failure, she thought up a new vision for the next day and recorded it in the book.
Like a winding river—ever changing and always moving, her journey continued for many miles and years. At first, she refused all suitors–until she found the prince of her dreams.
Her children began to grow up, and as she built a life worth living, she often looked back through her book. It was full of broken dreams, but other ideas had merged into real life. The things she wrote about were no longer a fantasy. They’d become facts. By the time she realized the value of the gift the old woman had given her, she was no longer a young girl but was becoming wiser and long in years herself. As she pondered the reality of her words, she noticed the wisdom in her halting and tired hand, written years before and faded with time; she read the question, “What do you love so much, that it’s worth doing even if you fail?”
One day she met a young girl full of energy, yet longing for stability. She recognized the expression of pain and confusion just as she’d worn on her own face so many years before. She reached into her bag and offered a handmade leather book much like the one given to her so long ago. As she held it out, she was surprised to notice her own hands had begun to grow wrinkled. The young girl almost snubbed the gift, but accepted it out of politeness as she whispered, “The things you write down will change your life.”
She continued on her way, glancing back to watch the younger women stumbled on her journey. By now she realized we each get to decide how our story ends.