The Endings of Stories

Microblog_Mondays

Spoiler alert for the book Deep Down Dark.  While most of what I’m about to talk about has actually been covered in the media at various times, if you didn’t see it or have forgotten and want to read the book with no spoilers, this post is going to have a few. 

When I was in the hospital, I read Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle That Set Them Free. At the time, I needed a book engrossing enough to transport me out of my hospital room and most of all, have a happy ending. I found myself transfixed by Hector Tobar’s account of the miners’ 69 days underground and their dramatic rescue.

It’s really an incredible story. The thing that fascinates me most now, however, is not how the miners endured the horrifying conditions, the near starvation, or the triumphant moments as each man emerged from the rescue capsule. It’s the true ending, what happened once the media spotlight faded.

After the breathless media coverage, the fame, the money given to each of them, most of them went back to living essentially the way they were before the mine collapse. Several have even gone back to work as miners.

The humanities major in me isn’t very satisfied with this ending. In the US, there’s a strong cultural ideal surrounding redemption narratives, life-changing experiences, and being an entirely different – and better, improved – person after struggle or hardship, especially when the ending is as miraculous as with this particular story. I’m used to movies, memoirs, or novels that end this way. Reading how the men still had the problems they entered the mine that day with, how they picked up where they left off, doesn’t fit that narrative.

And yet.

It’s been a sort of comfort to realize that, having survived (on a much smaller scale) a difficult and life-changing experience and becoming one of those miracle stories, I still recognize myself. Not everything has changed despite a new home, new city, new job, new daughter. I’m still introverted, still more quick-tempered than I’d like to be, still pig-headed, still with many of the same issues and strengths I took with me to the hospital that January night. It doesn’t fit with what I’d consider the somehow less complicated, more media-friendly life-totally-transformed ending, but perhaps that’s one of the unsung miracles of human resilience: how often life goes on flowing stubbornly around all the rocks and falls in its path.

This post is part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more posts or get in on the action, please go visit Mel over at Stirrup Queens.

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6 thoughts on “The Endings of Stories

  1. I think that the book depicts what happens more often than not. We’re transformed, but we’re still ourselves and still crave the same life. Because that old life is comforting.

  2. I feel like unfortunately that ending happens a lot, like the Somali actor in Captain Phillips, or the child actors in Slumdog Millionaire. After the media blitz is over, things go back to normal. It’s depressing, because you’re right, we want redemption to be permanent. A change in fortune to stay forever. It’s scary to think otherwise. I agree, infertility is life-altering and transformative, and I have seem some people changed forever and some turn into the cringe worthy parents that day and do insensitive things like they forgot their good fortune entirely. I think we’re lucky if we are changed for good, but it’s also good to always be wary of the possibility that fortunes could change again. Not to be utterly depressing or anything! 🙂

  3. Very insightful. I think often it’s not the big things that change us, but the little ones, and often you don’t know what has changed you forever until years afterward.

  4. I think even as a child, I never believed the idea of “happily ever after.” Life intervenes. Apparently, even if you win the lottery, you soon resort to being the same person.

    Though I also agree wtih Torthuil – that you might not notice how you’ve changed till much later.

  5. Someone once told me about research done looking at the lives of those who win the lottery. In each case, despite the immediate influx of money, these people would go on to live lives that would remain unchanged from their previous state. This in combination to this post reminds me that it’s rare to have lives that are completely transformed after any event. We are drawn to continue on our journeys, no matter what they may be.

  6. People, I feel, are essentially creatures of habit and environment. Even after the most traumatic experiences, not everyone is transformed magically to a higher plane. It is a choice and you have to develop new habits and new supports to transcend your environment.

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