Of course, all of this could not be possible without the presence of God. When I look back on everything in my life, I can see how everything lead up to this journey: my high school English teacher who taught me to write, my college research internship that provided experience in grief and loss, everything that was Kent (and the onset of Simon), the title of the book, the urgency to write, the tools I needed. Writing Happily Never After was perhaps the most spiritual process I have ever undergone.
I believe my God is one who proposes options, and gives me the choice to pick. Of course, there are always paths He would prefer for me to take, but in the end, I am always the one in control of those decisions. Throughout the past year, I have been bombarded with a variety of questions and choices that I had to make in order to set me up for the success of this book. I do not think it was just handed to me, but rather, I had to work, and I had to prove myself:
Question: Can you defend your writing?
A few months ago, my writing came under attack. Some people took offense to something I posted, and I found myself defending my writing: what I write, why I write, for whom I write for. Technically, under freedom of speech, I am allowed to write about anything I want to, including people and situations, as long as I take out any identifiers. It was in this time that I validated the need for Happily Never After. While there is a strong likelihood that there will be situations exposed and people offended, what I have to remind myself is that my purpose in writing exceeds a far greater need than these people, and for that singular reason, I have a moral obligation to share my story. One thing I have really enjoyed about this journey is watching the ideas spread. The beauty about the universe is, while it is chaotic and sporadic, everything always happens purposefully. I have loved running into people who stumbled across my video, picked up a bookmark, sat next to on the aeroplane, Googled a completely irrelevant term and found my blog. I never know exactly how God is working, and I never know exactly how He will bring people to my work, and I never know exactly who is benefitting from it, but what I do know is that there is an entire generation of Millenials suffering, and if I can perhaps reach just one of them, I am doing my job.
For that reason, I am morally obligated to write.
Question: How will you let the attention change your life?
There is no doubt the book will change my life. People will find out things about me they never knew. Since I don’t know who exactly has heard about it, being out in public will be different. And, there’s always the possibility, as every writer hopes, that I will become a millionaire and can finally retire from my day job. There was a time last year that I was bombarded with these questions, and I spent a good month contemplating how I might answer them. I was presented with scenarios, met people, went to concerts, attended meetings that guided me towards answering these questions: Things Money Can’t Buy, Moral Growth, The Good and Beautiful God.
While inevitably the book will change my life, I hope that it doesn’t change my sense of self. I hope my Dutch-ness will save me because, as we see from the NFL, people have a tendency to revert back to their beginnings–this is why a huge percentage of NFL players end up in debt—they never grew up with money, they are never taught how to manage money, so when they have it, they spend it frivolously. I existed on the other side of the spectrum, where hard work was always valued over any physical or material accolade. It was through these situations that I realized, no matter what, I will always need to work, because I believe work makes us better people. I will probably always overbook myself, and never have time to go shopping, get my hair cut, do my nails, clean my bathroom. I will probably drive my Corolla into the ground, because I have such an attachment to it (literally–I had to take it in this week for hail damage repair, and avoided all the phone calls about setting up the rental because I couldn’t part with it).
Question: Will you allow yourself to be used?
I don’t think I just “got” to write Happily Never After. I think there were a few expectations involved. I do believe that each of us are gifted a specific skill set and a specific set of circumstances for a specific purpose. We have some people who learn how to navigate their careers first, and then their marriages later, and we have those who learn to navigate their marriages first and their careers later, so that we can teach each other. Not everyone can always experience thing at the same times. As I began writing Happily Never After, I would be thrown a bone, and then pulled in some kind of direction shortly after. I would get an e-mail from a literary agent, and then a friend would call me with their crisis. One of my articles would be published on a national platform, and then I would be called to sit with my best friend’s family for Ryan’s brain surgery. An editor would return with positive feedback, and my grandpa passed away. I found that, with each of these writing successes, a separate calling would come, as if God was saying, “I will give you a bone with this, but I need to use you in this spot first”. And, I know that, whatever happens hereafter, I must continue to show up to those callings.
As it turns out, Happily Never After is 100% a work of God: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).