I'm reading the Kindle version of a book that's sat in my phone for well over a year now. It's a memoir called Tracks: A Woman's Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback, and it's written by Robyn Davidson. I bought it a while back when it went on sale for something like two dollars and I'd thought, Now, there's a story I need to hear.
Something that surprised me this past weekend: It isn't until you're about 41 percent of the way through this book (the Kindle version tells you how far along you are) that Robyn actually begins her trek in earnest, four camels in tow.
What was she doing for the first 41 percent of the book?
She was trying to learn about camels—how to ride them, how to train them, how to pack them. She was trying to figure out how to acquire three of her own. She was trying to navigate tumultuous relationships with the people who had the skills and know-how that she needed desperately to learn. She was trying to keep herself fed and sheltered and of sound mind, body, and spirit. She was trying to survive.
This means that 41 percent—almost half—of this book isn't about the specific journey we readers think it will be about.
This means that traversing 1700 miles of Australian outback is just one piece of the picture—a mighty piece at 50 percent or so, but still, not the entire story.
What else might this mean?
Our personal narratives, yours and mine, are a whole lot bigger than whatever we believe is the major plot point. No matter if it's an exciting, terrifying, encouraging, disappointing, joyful, or heartbreaking plot point. There's a TON of story that comes before—and, if we're fortunate, there will be a TON of story that comes after.
Also: Our journeys contain heaps more than the action-y bits. Whether or not we think we've started our Big Thing, it actually began way back when we came into this world—our Camel Studies 101 days, as it were—and it might take 41 percent (or more!) of our lives before we realize that right now is 'go' time, before we've developed the tenacity to take the next step, before we lead our caravan off into the desert to do the thing we suspect we're meant to do with our time here.
Where are you at in your big journey? Still earning money to have a saddle made? Standing at the edge of the last settlement before an abyss of sand? Or are you in the thick of it, sweating as you consult the map once again, adjust the camels' packs, and talk to yourself just to remember what your voice sounds like? Tell me in the comments below.
Wherever you are, the story is bigger than you can imagine. Don't lose perspective.