Fantastic Friday: Overcoming Obstacles

In teaching literature, my students often ask me the same question I asked when I was a student. Why, in literature, do protagonists always have to battle such unpleasant things?

After discussion, we always swing back to the answer: overcoming obstacles is part of the human condition. Whether we succeed or fail, it’s the drive to overcome, rather than give in, that is the true spark that makes us who we are.

Confronting challenges forces us to confront ourselves; it pushes us to be our best. Without obstacles, we might become couch potatoes or beach bums. We would never know our true potential.

Which is why I am always heartened to read stories about those who overcome. This week, I read about a girl born without hands who won a national handwriting contest, a man who completed a thousand-mile hike with his blind dog, and a stranger story about a beluga whale that was freed of a very tight collar. The human connection, of course, is that someone ventured into icy water to free the whale, despite the strange circumstances surrounding the collar.

When we’re in the midst of it, it seems life’s challenges are unique to us. But in reality, people are generally great at hiding what ails them. The cliche is true: we are all fighting a battle. It’s why I turn to literature. As I have so often said, literature helps remind me that we are not alone, that our struggles are common and valiant. It’s why my character Heather Primm fights against injustice despite the social stigma it earns her, why Steffie Brenner doesn’t give up on her neighbor who went missing in the woods, and it’s why I continue to find time to write despite my busy schedule.

Because we are human, we are not alone, and we are amazing.

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