Passing over a large bridge today, it got me thinking about character development. When someone mentions a character we instantly picture them in our mind doing something. Maybe two people kissing (or more? *wink*), a villain performing some nefarious deed or a hero standing tall against an evil army.
But how did they get there?
Villains didn’t start out as villains. Some are just children who had bad starts. Maybe they are like Tom Riddle a.k.a. Voldemort. Abandoned and orphaned, he turns his powers to dark desires. Even the kindly Dumbledore could only slow Voldemort’s slide into his Dark Lord persona. But still Tom Riddle chose. Tom chose to frighten the other orphans, hang the rabbit from the rafters, open the Chamber of Secrets, study the furthest of the Dark Arts, create Horcurxes and assemble his army of Death Eaters to conquer Britain. He chose to become Voldemort and did not turn away from his goal of acquiring more power. This is never more evident than in the memories that Harry sees in the Half Blood Prince. It is definitely a dark obsession for our villain to have, but it shows the growth of the character.
Need another example? How about Harry Potter. Orphaned, verbally and mentally abused from a young age, his situation might seem similar but Harry’s personality is a mirror opposite of Tom Riddle. Though he is abused by more than just his Muggle family, he finds friends who bring out the best in him. Powerful, smart and recklessly brave, Harry does things that make him a legend.
But it took steps to get there. He chose to not turn to the Dark Arts, chose not to repay his aunt, uncle and cousin for the abuse of his childhood, chose to brave the challenges to protect the Sorcerer’s Stone, rescues Ginny Weasley from Voldemort, listens to Sirius instead of killing him out of misplaced vengeance, faces down Voldemort in the Riddle Graveyard, forms Dumbledore’s Army to fight against Umbridge’s regime, aids Dumbledore in his search for Horcruxes and finally Harry defeats Voldemort, the most powerful Dark Wizard of all time.
Was Harry scared? Of course. There were a thousand steps to turn and run or repay evil to his enemies, but he chose to be Harry. Headstrong and reckless, yes, but also kind, merciful and a constant reminder to never give up. He isn’t a perfect hero and made plenty of mistakes that cost him more than a few night’s rest. But he moved on and tried to make sure he didn’t make the same mistake twice. That’s growth.
I constantly find myself looking back 5 years ago and wonder at how different a person I am now than I was then. I can see the two different people like two pieces of land that are connected only by a bridge. Both people are very much me, but both are very different. Experience shapes us and how we deal with the experience is what makes all the difference. That is what decides what kind of person will be on the other side of my next 5 year bridge.
Every choice we make is a step on a path to somewhere. Every decision matters, no matter how small they may seem at the time. So be kind, be merciful, be brave and never back down.