What makes for a good story?
Is it the relationships that mend and break? The mystery that yields suspense? What about the soundtrack that plays along in the background? Are all stories worth telling? If not, are they stories at all?
If we all come from different backgrounds, beliefs, families, environments and experiences, it would seem that opportunities to learn from people nearly always exist in one form or another – whether the lessons are interesting on the surface or not. So, why are some people so close-minded to other peoples’ stories? Why do they sometimes choose to neglect their own?
I think that people have the tendency to live outwardly — seeing what other people do and responding with behaviors that reflect what society might expect of them rather than the thoughts and emotions that they experience from within. The concept itself may seem obvious at first — trying to fit in with the “cool” kids — but if everyone acts and does the same things then the opportunities to stand out and learn from one another lessen dramatically.
I had an interesting conversation with a coworker earlier this week….He is a middle-aged, homosexual German man living in Frankfurt; I am a 23 year old, single, heterosexual, jewish female living in the States. We have walked extremely different ways of life, which is intriguing to me, but it seemed difficult for him to accept…and not for the reasons that you might think.
Although trying to maintain some of my own mystery, I did start to tell him about my story — my family, hardships, love lost; the twists and turns that helped me lose myself to ultimately find myself. I was openly expressing what a bad person I thought I was as an adolescent because of the experiences that I had had growing up. Toward the end of the conversation, all he had to say was that he was somewhat envious and wished that he had a story like mine; if life had kicked him in the ass harder, he would be been more motivated to do and experience more, become more successful.
I thought he was kidding. I mean…I wouldn’t wish my story upon anyone. That’s like gluing together broken glass and expecting it to shine as bright as a new bottle. Then again, broken glass makes for a beautiful mosaic. I have come to appreciate all of my broken pieces; each scar representing only small chapters of my story. I love what they have helped me become, and for that I am grateful.
When my coworker said he was jealous of me, I guess I was just taken aback because I thought he sounded more interesting on paper…or at least that he would have experienced more than I have. He then explained that his family was always supportive of his sexual orientation and it was just never made into a big deal, so he never really had to experience prejudice, malice, or truly trying experiences. Obstacles and hardships are really relative to each individual, but my coworker was adamant that he hadn’t undergone what he thought would make for a proper, interesting story.
He continued to say that after hearing some of what I have gone through, he wished that his story was as much of a page-turner as mine. At the same time, he internally felt guilty for wanting the people close to him, as well as his circumstances, to challenge him more instead of appreciating the path that he says they made easy for him.
I know that he didn’t tell me all of his story. I don’t know what was true and what wasn’t, but the conversation with my coworker made me realize something…that maybe the question isn’t whether or not some stories are worth telling; rather, it might be: What have you learned from your story? Or maybe: How has your story shaped you?
If you are reading the same chapter over and over again, you won’t be able to write the next chapter to your story…Perhaps the most exciting page hasn’t been lived yet. THAT in itself is something to be grateful for. Take the time to reflect inwardly so that you can share your energy outwardly. You never know who you might reach and help, whose narrative you might become a major part of.
Always tell your story.