Thoughts On Stories

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.

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The Bus (A short story I wrote in class)

The bus was drawing near. The rain came down on me in waves cresting where I stood, as if the drops had joined together to push me into the pavement. I noticed the melody in the rushing beats against the streets and the swirls the water made as it drifted away into the oblivion below the grates, time began to slow and I now could feel each individual drop on my clothes and skin. The sights and sounds around me became a blur of white noise. As everything came to a close and my future had arrived at my door, it was then and only then that was I able to find silence. Not just the silence from noise, but from stress and worry. My thoughts were now clearer than ever and I saw that the significant events in our life do not determine our destiny but instead allow us the realization that we are in control. These events may hit us like a freight train against an insect, or they may slowly trap us like a slow leak in a sealed room. Either way, the key to survival was my attitude toward the situations life threw at me.

In this single moment that had slowed to eternity I felt the drops on my body as if they were hundreds of miles away like placing your hand against a window on a rainy day and you swear you can feel the drops against your palm. I felt both incredibly small and gigantic, I was not entirely sure what sort of out of body experience I was having but I decided I was better not to fight. I shut my eyes and drifted further into myself and I found answers to questions I never had. My life after this moment would never be the same and I had to understand that once I was on the bus that I could not turn back. I had played out this scenario in my head a million times but I had never thought I would actually get here. All the anxiety and stress I now saw, was for nothing. I was ready. I think I always was but I was terrified of admitting I was okay with leaving my old life behind. Life is constantly changing and so we are better off letting the changes happen because when these decisions finally knock at our door we will greet them with open arms and loving hearts. Whether it is our hearts or our souls or some clockwork device, the omnipresent force that is guiding us along our travels will always show us the way when the time comes. My time had come. I opened my eyes as if for the first time and I was amazed at the sights before me. The bus I awaited was still moving slower than time could comprehend and I saw that the bus would stay stuck in time until I was ready to accept my fate. I knew I was, but I wanted a little more time in the silent chamber of my mind. I allowed myself one last time to breath in all that my life was worth up until this moment, and I closed my eyes again.

In my mind I held a scrapbook of my life. I flipped through the chapters of my life and was filled with a bitter sweet sensation; I was never getting these memories back but that was the beauty of life. We make memories throughout our lives and we try our best to make those memories worth revisiting. Although we can never allow ourselves to dwell in the past too long for we can never add to the book if we stay in one place. With that, I put the book away for the next time I would ever wish to come back to my memories. Once I stepped onto the bus I knew I would begin to fill the book with completely different stories. I made peace with my old life and was ready for the new. The distant droplets were getting nearer and I was more aware of the echoing sounds. The rain, I supposed, had washed away all worry over my decision. Once more I opened my eyes. The blurred lights danced like candles in the night and I allowed time to return.

The eternity that was my perfect moment was gone just as it had come and I felt the heavy rain beating down on me and my ears were filled with the loud hum of the city. The bus rushed forward towards me and I began to see exactly how fast life was. The bus stopped at the curb in front of me. As the doors opened I stepped on without hesitation as a dog rushes for his meal at the sound of a bell. I sat in the empty row at the back where I could again be free with my thoughts. The rain drops pelted the window beside me and I felt invincible to the world around me. With a smile, I placed my hand against the glass remembering the sensation I had felt just moments before. The decision I had to make, leaving everything behind, was not what controlled my fate but instead how I felt towards my decision. I thought of myself not as the bug, but the freight train. I was strong and confident in my decision and this event was only a spec on my windshield. I allowed the cramped flooding room that had been slowly killing me to expand. The suffocation and claustrophobia disappeared and the room was as big as I chose it to be. After a long ride the bus had arrived at my destination, the air breaks hissed like snakes giving me one final push towards my future. Fate walked down the aisle and offered her hand to me. I took it gladly and she led me off the bus. As I got off, the bright light was so piercing I could feel its blades through my being. I turned my head to the bus but it was no longer there. I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, and I began walking.