Author Elizabeth Gilbert noted that there are two main plots in fiction: 1) someone leaves home, 2) a stranger comes to town. Seems to me those two events are also the catalyst for many true stories.
On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles arrival in the US, consider this one from the young Paul McCartney:
I started working at a coil-winding factory called Massey and Coggins. My dad had told me to go out and get a job. I'd said, 'I've got a job, I'm in a band.' But after a couple of weeks of doing nothing with the band it was, 'No, you have got to get a proper job.' He virtually chucked me out of the house. So I went to the employment office and said, 'Can I have a job? Just give me anything.' And the first job was sweeping the yard at Massey and Coggins. I took it.
I went there and the personnel officer said, 'We can't have you sweeping the yard, you're management material.' And they started to train me from the shop floor up with that in mind. Of course, I wasn't very good on the shop floor - I wasn't a very good coil-winder.
One day John and George showed up in the yard that I should have been sweeping and told me we had a gig at the Cavern. I said, 'No. I've got a steady job here and it pays £7 14s a week. They are training me here. That's pretty good, I can't expect more.' And I was quite serious about this. But then - and with my dad's warning still in my mind - I thought, 'Sod it. I can't stick this lot.' I bunked over the wall and was never seen again by Massey and Coggins. Pretty shrewd move really, as things turned out.
From The Beatles Anthology
Leaving home, leaving an unsatisfying job or dead-end relationship may be the start of a great new story, but doing so comes with a big challenge.
I once received e-mail from a woman who had spent her life as a teacher. She had stuck with it long after the satisfaction had gone. Now she was ready, she said, to do something completely different. However, she wasn't at all certain what the new path should be. That happens, of course, when we become entrenched in a situation or relationship for so long that we forget that we have options.
I made several suggestions about how she could begin exploring. I heard from her again after about ten days and she was making remarkable headway. She'd even listed all of her teaching books on eBay-burning her bridges she said.
Imagine my amazement when I opened her next e-mail which was obviously written in a moment of great panic. "I only have another week to sign my teaching contract," it read. "Should I sign it?"
I was flabbergasted and promptly replied that I didn't have the answer to her question. I suggested, however, that it might be a temporary lapse on her part and then I said, "So how are you going to tell your grandchildren that you once had an opportunity to create a truly adventurous life and you chickened out?"
The moment I typed that question, I realized at a very deep level, how our acts of self-doubt don't just impact our own lives, but have a profound ripple effect. Take the low road and you'll have a procession behind you. What kind of legacy is that?
We might tell ourselves that staying in a stultifying relationship isn't really so bad or having a job that robs us of any creative enthusiasm is fine for now, but every day that we hang on we are losing precious time that could be spent building something bold and beautiful.