Guest Post with Cheryl at CMASH Loves to Read
One of the themes in my debut novel, Into The Dark, is about moving on from the past. Both main characters–Emilie and Nathan–struggle with bad decisions made years before, and throughout the book, have to learn from the past in order to ultimately save Emilie’s life.
I didn’t set out with that theme. I just created two characters with littered pasts because I love tortured characters. It wasn’t until halfway through writing Into The Dark that I realized I was drawing on my own personal issues.
My past is nothing like Emilie or Nathan’s, and yet, there are a few major decisions I wish I could take back. Decisions I’ve regretted for years and allowed to affect my outlook on life. In the grand scheme of things, they aren’t huge issues. I chose to major in journalism and put my fiction writing aside, and because I didn’t love what I was doing, I didn’t focus on my career like I should have. That meant not getting the big-time job I was supposed to. Instead, I got married–a decision I don’t regret–the day after I graduated college and took a paltry job at a little paper. I quickly realized I hated reporting, but I’d backed myself into a corner. Years (and huge loans) of college education wasted–or so I thought.
I eventually ended up in advertising until I had my daughter in 2005 and decided to stay home with her–another decision I don’t regret. But I still carried the guilt for my past decisions and felt as though I’d failed everyone who expected me to “be somebody.”
It wasn’t until September 30th, 2009 that I got my head out of my rear. I’d just dropped my daughter off at daycare for a few hours and was on my way home on a road I travel every day. A road just a few blocks from our house. I was texting and driving. I turned right onto the road, and just ahead was a bridge. I looked down at my phone, and when I looked back up, my Intrepid was about to hit the curved concrete sidewall of the bridge. I braced for impact and remember thinking, “we cannot afford this.” But instead of hitting the bridge and stopping, the car ramped up the curved side, flipped over, skidded across the road on its hood, and ended up facing the opposite direction.
Suddenly the car stops, and I’m hanging upside down, saved by my seatbelt. That’s when the panic hit. All I could think of was “get out, get out, you’re going to get hit.” Both front doors were crushed from the impact, so I had to crawl through the back and out the passenger door.
It wasn’t until I got out of the car and to the side of the road that I realized I’d never let go of my phone. Mercifully, I walked away with only bruises, but the car was totaled. Another round of guilt set in, because my stupidity had earned us a car payment to deal with.
But then I realized I could have died. And I’d wasted so much time feeling sorry for myself, feeling guilty, and not doing the one thing I’ve always been passionate about–writing. And life is simply too short to waste our time being miserable.
So I got serious about writing and my dreams of being published. The idea for Into The Dark had been in my head for a while, and I started the journey of writing it. And because writing what we know is natural, letting go of the past quickly became the theme of my book. It’s taken a long time, but I’ve learned not to live with regrets and to keep looking to the future. We are the only ones who can change our lives, and there’s no reason to wait until tomorrow to get started.