noun – (1) a separate introductory section of a literary or musical work. (2) an event or action that leads to another event or situation.
How the hell does a man move forward in life when everything he does seems to be defined by everything he’s done?
William Shakespeare answered that question in The Tempest.
“What is past is prologue”
Antonio | Act 2, Scene 1.
Essentially, you may ask yourself, “What the hell does that even mean?”
So here’s the thing: I’m not a teacher anymore, but I’ve still got all of that seemingly-useless information about classic literature and literary analysis still rattling around my jumbled cabeza, and sometimes I can’t help but just use it.
Actually, it still serves me well as a writer. Because I’m actually doing it. I’m writing a book. Sounds cliche, but it’s true. And I don’t make that claim like someone who says “Oh yeah, I’m writing a book,” and it’s just something that sits and is never finished. Not me. As of this moment, my manuscript sits at 129,196 words (329 pages); which (admittedly) will likely be edited down. I’ve received interest from two publishers thus far, and upon completion and full-revision, I will aggressively pursue literary agents and publishers. My query letter is already written and is ready for submission; I have a list of potential agents to contact; I simply need to put the finishing touches on it and send it out into the world.
I don’t mean this to sound cocky or arrogant, but writing is what I do – it’s the only thing in this world at which I am truly great. Writing comes more naturally to me than breathing. Yesterday I wrote a fictional prologue to a piece I began a few weeks ago (a separate fiction manuscript), and when I finished it and re-read it, I thought to myself, “Damn, I seriously just wrote that.”
In prison, I hand-wrote a 300+ page fictional novel. Seriously. In the two years I was in prison, I wrote a book – handwritten on notebook paper. The first page was written at R.D.U. in El Dorado a few weeks after my sentencing; the last page was written in Winfield two years later, the night before I went home. Writing that book was my creative escape from the bitter surroundings of incarceration. But that particular book will have to wait.
One book I’ve written (and am currently finalizing) is non-fiction. It is tentatively titled: After 3PM: A Former Teacher’s Battle with Sex Addiction. It is not a book about my crime; it is a book about my recovery. It’s a three-part literary hybrid: memoir / exposé / self-help / novel. Part One is essentially the telling of my history, including my youth, college, young adulthood – all leading up to my crime, my arrest, and my sentencing. Part Two is about prison, sort of, and is told entirely by way of my letters home from prison to my wife, which not only describe what prison was like, but also gives a progressive accounting of how my perspectives, morals, and values changed over-time as a result of being in prison, my treatment in prison, and the self-reflection I was doing while incarcerated. Part Three is a fusion of Part One and Part Two, illustrating the lessons and realizations that have changed my life in the context of my past, my addiction, and my hope for the future.
“What is past is prologue.” After 3PM is the Prologue of my life. And right now, my life is writing Chapter One and Chapter Two and Chapter Three and so on…
When Shakespeare wrote that line, the idea he meant to convey is this: Everything we have done and endured in life is what led us to where we stand in life, here, right here, right now. The Prologue of my life, and your life, has already been written. But the next chapter? Well, that’s different. In the next chapter, anything is possible. What is written in the next chapter of your life is up to you. Because whether we like it or not, we are all writing our own life story – with every word we speak, with every action we take, with every friend we make, and with every heart we break. Your life story is your legacy. And if your Prologue – like mine – is regrettable, then it is entirely up to you to live a life that will write such great subsequent chapters that your Prologue of tragedy will become chapters of triumph.
One of the songs that got me through prison was “Carry On” by the band Fun. The chorus has one of the greatest lyrical refrains I’ve ever heard:
“May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground.”
Exactly. Moving forward and creating a better tomorrow is the absolute best way to redeem a regrettable past. Do something great. Be someone great. And it doesn’t have to be something monumental or colossal. Scale is irrelevant. Because merely changing what you do doesn’t matter as much as changing who you are. When you do good in life, that’s admirable. But when you are good, then doing good comes naturally. See the difference?
So don’t be burdened by the past; it is merely the back-story of who you are now. Instead, use the past as a springboard to pass-on the life lessons you learned the hard way to someone else, so that they may benefit from what you have endured. Give others the wisdom of your life so that they may learn as you did, without the struggles you endured. You never know who will benefit from reading or seeing or hearing your life’s Prologue. That is exactly why I’ve written my book, After 3PM. My prayer is that someone, somewhere, sometime, will find it, read it, and perhaps learn a few things from me that he or she will not have to learn the hard way. The only way that I can attempt to resolve the past is to help create a better future.
One thing in life is certain: There are people around who have not yet endured what you have endured, but soon will. And perhaps they desperately need the lessons that you learned in the Prologue of your life. Therefore…