Your Life Is Not A Story, And You Will Not Get Closure.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

We all know how the murder mystery ends: the clever detective corners the perp, having solved the crime, and peppers him with pointed questions until the villain cracks.
“All right, I did it!” the villain cries. “I was bad and wrong and evil, and I’ll acknowledge what a murderous scumbag I was, before even so much as a trial!”
Often, the villain fills in the details the detective missed. Because fictional villains are helpful like that.
But in real life, the cunning villain remains silent. He knows he’s got a trial coming up. There’s long years of court battles, legal tricks, friends he’ll lose if he confesses now. He’s gone to a lot of effort to plan this crime, and he’ll go to equal efforts to wriggle out of punishment for it.
In real life, the villain’s answers are less satisfying: “So?” “No, that didn’t happen.” “I want to talk to my lawyer.”
And there often never is a full understanding of what happened. The only person who could explain their rationale has all the incentive in the world to stay silent, to lie, to tell mixed truths, whatever will best muddy the waters in their favor.
All good people can do is interview people, get fragments. But the evidence never fits together like a jigsaw puzzle: it’s messy, overlapping, incomplete and contradictory.
There’s no certainty. No explanation. Just someone who probably did something awful – and you don’t even have 100% certainty on that, just a lot of evidence that points in their direction.
Yet if you’re not careful, you treat your bad breakups like they were fictional crimes, not real ones. You’ll go back to that partner who cheated on you, demanding explanations, never satisfied until they crack and acknowledge that yes, they saw themselves as evil when they were fucking you over, that they both knew and understood that they were Satan incarnate, and that they carry a deep loss and sorrow over playing the villain in your story.
Strangely, they don’t. They make excuses. They wrangle for sympathy. They feel justified in their abuse, and you will never wring the confession out of them that you need to feel whole.
But you’re not a goddamned story in a book.
You need to leave this need for closure behind.
They were jerks to you. They will probably be jerks to someone else. I’m sorry that you’re not important enough to function as the climax to their story, because that sucks, but the truth is that your requirement to be the star in everyone’s life – including your own – is a toxic thing.
Because you can waste years of your life trying to get this closure. You’ll keep going back and talking to them and getting upset because they sound so convincing when they tell you their story, and why don’t these facts neatly line up? If you’re really unlucky, you’ll fall for their bullshit all over again and get back with them, and discover that “sweet words” do not equal “righteous actions.”
Truth is, some asshole hurt you. You may never know the reasons. You may never see them punished for it. You may never hear them admit why. I’m sorry, because that random pain is deeply, deeply unsatisfying.
But you know what’s less satisfying? Wasting valuable time you could be using to make your life more awesome, and draining that by endlessly piecing together messy snippets of real life to try to shape a nice plot out of nothing.
They were jerks. And consider this: you may have even helped them be jerks to you by wanting so badly to believe in a narrative that you bought into their narrative of them-as-hero, quietly eliding the facts that didn’t fit into this glorious story of You Together, Forever. That’s not always the case, because some jerkdoms spring out of nowhere, but it’s not always not the case.
Rather than seeking a narrative structure, can you instead assemble a profile of jerky behavior, in order to avoid falling into the same trap again? We do not need to understand the origins of gravity to know that leaping into chasms will cause large amounts of harm.
Then also contemplate this: good detectives don’t need a confession to make a case. They assemble evidence, make judgements, and convict in the absence of nice bright narrative structures. And most of them still sleep well at night.
I encourage you to do the same.


  1. Michelle Moyes
    Mar 29, 2018

    Thank you for this article.

  2. Vibodh
    Dec 10, 2021

    This article is helping me a great deal. Thank you so much.


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