Essays

A story in your heart

I started my storytelling classes last night and I have one word for the whole thing: sublime.

Storytelling, stories, really, are one of most human activities in which we can engage. A good story makes you feel connected to another person; and connection is something that all human beings seek. When we feel that we lack connection or we cannot connect, we start to die inside.

This is not an exaggeration. It’s a fact.

I just finished this morning the book The Power of Meaning, and it talks about four pillars of meaning: belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence. Oddly enough, in the last few pages, it talked about StoryCorps, which I can’t summarize all of its goodness in a sentence (so click that link), but how just the act of a single conversation, the telling of your story to another person – and them listening, receiving it, produces meaning and how having that sense of meaning can instantly change your outlook on life.

Why I call that odd is that I read that after taking this class, but when I read it, it was familiar because in just one class, I experienced that sense of meaning. It’s true.

My first class was focused on how to generate ideas of what stories in your life you could tell, practicing a few short attempts and pitches, and some examples and techniques. In other words, this was 101, and yet, even just practicing the act of listening and telling, even in an unpolished and deeply imperfect state, of missteps and lots ummms and ahhhs, and unsure words – I left with a sense of meaning. Just doing it, just practicing, just stumbling onwards opens you up to something bigger than yourself and connects you to other people.

You feel less alone in this big, big, world which is outrageously indifferent to you, a single, tiny speck of a human being amongst the crowd of billions.

In the book, it references one homeless person’s exclamation at seeing his photo and story produced in a book:

“I exist! I exist!”

I think of the struggles so many of us have with loneliness, social media, status… all of it, just all of it feels wrapped up in this death-defying anxious drive to exist. To be seen and to be known.

Stories, the telling and receiving of them, make us visible and knowable. We start to exchange them from the first time we meet someone new: what’s your name, where are you from, what are you doing with your life, why are you here. Stories connect us, once we start sharing them, true ones, because we are quickly able to see, hear, and feel how all of us struggle and have faced defeat and loss, have experienced grief, but have also experienced joy and belonging and awe (and that is true awe, which means I can no longer use the word “awesome” in general context because not everything is awesome, but the things that are, are, and we should never devalue them).

I loved my class. I am excited for the next few weeks to unfold. I came in with a story in mind that I wanted to tell, but I am now open to all the stories I could tell. I don’t yet know which one is going to be the right one, but I am certain that I’ll figure it out soon and I am going to be so stoked to share it when I do.

This life is beautiful. This is life is beautiful. We are all so fortunate to be living it.

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