I love stories. Not just the stories I read in books or the ones I see in movies, but the stories people tell of a memory or event. Lately when I hear a story being told, I try to pay attention to the way they tell their tale. I love seeing their memories dance through their minds as they try to give the best recreation of the actual happenings. The joy of capturing the entire room with their tragic struggle or their most comedic moment, and the joy of seeing the smiles or the tears on the attentive faces as they are brought into the memory, is incredibly powerful and I believe that is why our stories are able to be passed on.
However accurate we think we are being when recounting an event, we might shape the memory differently than another who is telling the same tale.
In one instance, I heard the exact same memory told by two separate people. I was a witness to the event these two were talking about and I know every detail. Now I’ve heard both of them repeat this story as it was indeed a story to tell. What I found interesting was the way each person told the story, leaving out certain details, emphasising others, and even over exaggerating parts of the event to give their most captivating story. I know these people very well and the way they told the story reflected their personalities completely. One side told of the treacherous journey in which we struggled for our lives and the only way we survived was the guardian angel that we were fortunate to have run into along the way. The other story told a very similar near death experience, except completely left out the fact that there was someone ahead of us guiding us through. The one who tells the first tale is one who happily accepts help from others and thanks them graciously. The one who tells the second story prefers to rely on a solo effort when solving problems.
Neither story was wrong. Both people had told true happenings but had each molded the story through their own eyes. Since hearing the telling of the same story from two different sources, I have developed a curiosity to the way we tell our stories. How do our eyes, our thoughts and our hearts shape our memories? What details will we leave out, and which details will we stress? More importantly, why?
When I listen to others tell story I like to pick out pieces that I find reflect traits of that of the story teller. We can learn so much about someone by their stories. We can learn their struggle, their joy, their successes and their flaws. But we can learn even more if we look at how the story is being told. Who is the hero of the story? Where do the struggles come from? How and where do they end the tale?
I think a lot about how we can define ourselves as individuals. Certainly it is not on a resume. We are so much more than a slip of paper showing off the feats we feel will most please the reader. Sure our successes show a part of who we are, but we are our faults as well. However that does not mean we are only made up of flaws and awards, we are a compilation of everything we have done and everything that has been done to us or around us. That being said, I believe there is no true way to fully define ourselves, however I think that our stories hold a lot more power than we think. Our stories allow others to know our past and to know our dreams, which brings them closer to understanding who we are as individuals.
Imagine you are sitting down with a stranger for the sole purpose of telling them your story. Imagine you have an eternity to give the perfect summation of your life.
What do you tell them? How do you tell them? What parts of your life are essential pieces to your makeup? Are you the hero of the story? Or are you a victim to the world around you? What memories deserve to be told and what memories should be left out?
Now perhaps we will never have an eternity to recount the story of our lives, but we should ask ourselves these sorts of questions every time we tell any old story. In telling stories we are not only showing who we are to others, but we have an opportunity to understand more about ourselves.