Sometimes you’ll see a message at the beginning of a movie letting you know it was “based on true events.” There’s something dramatic about it because it’s exhilarating to watch an amazing story that wasn’t just imagined, but really happened.
At least part of it.
You see, I’m always skeptical of that claim because I feel they’re being intentionally vague. It makes me wonder, what parts are the true parts? How much of it is factual? Half? Thirty-three percent? One percent?
Did they leave out important details? Or exaggerate stuff for the sake of a better story? Did they shorten the timeline and turn the long, hard slog into a snappy, inspiring montage with an Ed Sheeran song playing underneath?
After the movie is over, a quick review of Wikipedia often reveals a different story than the one that makes a good motion picture. Like a good fishing story, certain parts may have been embellished for dramatic effect.
Sometimes we try and fashion our own lives based on true events. And that can be a trap.
Yes, that musician we admire got a record deal and is now touring the country to sold out arenas. But we didn’t see the seven years she spent sleeping in her car and couch surfing at friends’ places while she toured the state, playing to crowds of tens.
If we see someone who is successful, and try and model our lives after theirs, doesn’t that make our lives based on true events? Because indeed, we never see the full story. Maybe we only get half of it. Maybe we only get one percent.
We don’t see the sacrifices put in. The long nights crying into a pillow. The demons they had to fight through. We don’t see the boring parts where nothing seems to be happening and a breakthrough feels like it’ll never come.
That’s my story. I had many role models as I pursued my dream; all of whom seemed to achieve their dreams way more easily, quickly, and dramatically than I did. Kim and I spent nearly a decade living in a crappy apartment, drowning in debt, doing everything we could to keep our hope from blowing out, and wondering what we were doing wrong.
Now we live in a beautiful house overlooking Lake Michigan and make a living doing what I love. People who are entering my story now – especially the new people we’ve encountered since moving to Sheboygan eighteen months ago – don’t see the whole picture. I’m sure many just see one big “must be nice,” oblivious to the twenty years it took to get here.
By all means, take inspiration where you can get it, but never forget the inspiring stories you are privy to are based on true events.
Don’t be discouraged if your story feels more difficult than your hero’s, or is taking longer than you think it should to get to the happy ending. Keep going through the hard slog. Keep taking it one day at a time. The best dreams take a while and are achieved in the moments never seen by the camera.
And remember that when they make a movie of your life, they’ll probably gloss over this part with an upbeat Ed Sheeran song.