Unlike his father who was employed on the estate of the local castle as a gardener, my dad was a lathe worker at a pipeworks factory. He had left school with few qualifications and saw his future as a continuation of his family's roots. He would work, marry, and have children. That was his path. The thought of moving away (other than to fight in the war) did not occur to him.
Then it happened. An obstacle fell across his path, an obstacle which refused to let him find a way round. Due to his work, his hands became infected with lead poisoning. He was signed off for two weeks' unpaid leave. This was annoying - his family desperately needed his wage - but not life shattering in itself. He spent the time helping his parents in their work and seeing friends.
During one such meeting and an unplanned footie match, he was tackled to the ground and broke his leg. The break was clean and again, although it would prevent him from working for a while, it wasn't the end of the world. He was admitted into the hospital at Dumbarton and after a short while, the doctors discovered that the infection in his hands had spread to his broken leg. Whether it was down to an inability to house long-term patients or a shortage of beds, my father was moved to a hospital on the isle of Cumbrae.
|My dad on the right.|
On returning home, at the age of nearly twenty, he found himself re-labelled a cripple. There would be no fighting for his country. All of his male friends had joined up. His female friends, in his absence, had turned from young girls into replicas of their mothers and grandmothers. There was no chance of employment for him. In his community's eyes, he was destined to live a half-life. Ladies of his mother's age whom he had previously carried shopping for now gave up their seat for him on the bus. The pity was bad enough but he now found that his new attitudes, his new horizons gleaned from his time in hospital, had no place in his home town. His family, his friends, his community had stayed the same; he had not.
I'll halt my father's story at this stage to see if you've realised the writing lesson I'm trying to point out. We all love happy endings but for a story to work, your main character must meet with obstacles to carrying on in the direction they have always pursued. On occasion, they will be forced to sidestep the fallen log or marshy patch before regaining their original path. Sometimes, there will be no option but to take the other path, the one slightly hidden, the one where you can't see around the bend to what lies beyond. Hopefully, whichever path they end up on, it will bring them to a destination a better person than before the obstacle intervened. By all means, give your character a happy ending - let them marry the girl of their dreams, defeat the wicked monster, win the competition - but throw an obstacle (or two) into the mix too.
Just in case you're still interested, my father refused to accept the future he appeared to have been handed and over the next few months, he painfully taught himself to walk again, first on crutches, then sticks and finally with no support at all, from one bench to the next in the gardens of the castle. He moved away, finding employment as a lathe worker first in Worcester, then London, then Manchester. During this time, he re-educated himself through correspondence courses and university. He learned a love of the theatre and jazz. His obstacle threw him a long way off course, into uncharted territories for a Dunbartonshire boy, but in the end he got his happy ending.