I love a good story. For me, there's almost nothing better than getting lost for a few hours in a great book or a great movie.
I'm not sure how many people will agree with me here, but I don't even need a fairy-tale happy ending. My sister, for example, wants that happy ending every time! She wants to know before she commits to the story that all will be well in the end. As long as the story is engaging and is at least mostly resolved by the end, I'm good with that. Although I always root for the characters and hope that their story will end well, I would much prefer an ending that feels realistic. Now, if there were a happy ending that also felt real, what could be better?
Honestly, I can't remember if I've always felt this way or if I've arrived here as a result of circumstances in life. Oh, it's certainly true that I've always had very realistic expectations. One look at my senior memory book from my last year of high school will tell you that. While most of my peers were recording their hopes and dreams for rich spouses, tropical vacation homes, and fancy cars, I was hoping for a much simpler and far more attainable future. I wanted to go to college (which, in itself, was a pretty lofty goal coming from a poor family), fall in love, get married, have children, and live a happy and peaceful life with my family. I really never hoped for much beyond that, and certainly not for anything fancy.
Some may see this as the difference between an optimist and a pessimist, but I don't. I'm somewhere in the middle. I always hope for the best, but I never celebrate until I have actually reached it. And that way, if I don't get there, maybe I won't have to fall quite so hard.
My favorite kinds of stories are the ones where you get to take a peek into the characters' lives. You get to see how they live and what challenges they face on any given day. There will most likely be some big event or action scene that you definitely want to see resolved. Hopefully by the end of the tale, you've seen them overcome something and come out on the other side better than when you found them. Sometimes this may not mean that the sick person got better, or that the infertile person had babies. I guess what I look for in a good story is more of an internal change, rather than one where a person got everything they ever wanted and now they can live happily ever after.
A few weeks ago I finished a book in which one of the main characters was barren. I didn't know this when I started the book, but it was communicated several times throughout that she could not ever have children. Besides that, this character had a very hard life and many obstacles to overcome. Page after page and chapter after chapter, I pulled for her and hoped to see her find happiness! It was a great story, and by the time I got to the last chapter, I cried tears of joy that she was going to be okay.
Then came the epilogue.
In the three or four extra pages tacked onto the end of the story, the author gave the reader a glimpse into the future. The woman had children. We are never told how or when, or what in the world had transpired. Although I know that this is a work of fiction and I felt some happiness for the character, I couldn't help but think that I would have been just as satisfied with the book had it simply ended, leaving the future to my imagination.
More often than not, I watch movies and read books that have a very nice, fulfilling ending. Then, during the closing credits or the epilogue, we get that look into the future that usually feels too forced for me. It feels unreal, almost too good to be true. We don't know what the characters went through to get those twins that they're holding in their arms. We don't get to see how they got from point A to point B. We must just accept that they did, that all of their dreams were achieved, and that they will be happy forever. I always have a hard time accepting this ending (in a story, I mean). I think it takes away from my own ability to imagine them happy whether they got all they ever wanted or not. Maybe I should start skipping end credits and epilogues!
I'm not saying that "happily ever after" never happens. Deep down inside, I know I hope for that. I want my happy ending to include having children, and I want that particular happy ending for all of my friends who struggle with infertility. But I want to believe that there can be lots of really great stories without reaching the goal, stories of people who find happiness and fulfillment, who show amazing strength and grace in the face of hardship, even if they don't get exactly what they'd hoped for. Can I be happy with that kind of ending in real life, like I am in a story?
How do you feel about happy endings, whether realistic or not?