Let me tell you about stories.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a history major. Loving stories is a part of what I do. Studying stories is my work and my career, not just a hobby. But there’s a reason I got swept away by history in the first place, and that’s because stories – telling them, creating them, remembering them, hearing them – are my lifeblood.
I love reading stories. In elementary and middle school, that was my thing – I couldn’t play a sport to save my life, but I read fast, and I read a LOT. I still do, but it’s changed a little over the years. I used to read books as an escape, a distraction when the world got hard – now I read to know how better to live, what lens to look through, when those hard things come like I know they will. The older I get, the more I love to find books that challenge me, that surprise me. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, The Likeness by Tana French, Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner. At school, I adore the libraries. When I had to write a history thesis for the first time, I checked out so many books on the settlement movement that the library staff asked if I was a graduate student (goals). You’re much more likely to find me with my nose in a book when I’m at home – or when I have the time – than anywhere else. I’ve always been that way. I hope I always am.
As much as I wish my imaginings could measure up to the books I’ve read, when I say I love creating stories, I don’t mean writing ones out of my head. I mean living them. This summer, my friend Chelsea had a bunch of the interns from the ALPLM over to her apartment on a Friday after work for euchre night. We played cards for maybe an hour, and then on a whim, Chelsea picked up her guitar. It started out as her messing around with some chords, showing us some songs she’d written. We were crowded around her little kitchen table, five or six of us, eating Skittles. And before you knew it, Chelsea pulled out some chord sheets, Olivia and I picked up on some harmonies and we were recording “Let Her Go” by Passenger, and singing “Before He Cheats” at the top of our lungs. It was the kind of comfortable that comes from being real with each other – we missed some notes and some words, we tried our best, we laughed a lot – and it was one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had. And even telling it now doesn’t really do that night justice. When people say, “You just had to be there” – they lived a story. I love that.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a good story is all about the telling. I want to make people laugh – this one time, remember, it was the day it rained, and ten or so of us freshmen had tried to run out the storm, so we were sprinting across campus, late to marching band rehearsal. There was a farmer’s market on Thursdays at the medical center next to Au Bon Pain & Langford Auditorium, we came skidding around a corner and this guy at a Provence Cafe truck asks Dan & Brendan if they want baguettes. The next thing you knew, we each have a baguette and we’re running through the VA Hospital parking lot screeching “FREE BREAD” and posing for pics. We had to have been late, but I can’t even remember getting in any trouble – we passed around the bread in our sections and nobody said a word. That’s what I do on this blog – I want to capture the moments that make me laugh, that make me think, that I’ve lived and breathed, and share them. There may be some kind of truth in them, or they may just literally be about free bread. Either way, to walk this earth involves conversation, and telling stories is my favorite.
Almost as sweet as the telling is the hearing. For every good story I’ve told or I’ve lived or I’ve read, I’ve heard a hundred more. Tonight, I was sitting in the living room talking to my dad about something completely random. He quoted a joke from one of his friends from high school, I asked him a question, and the stories began. If you want to know how someone sees the world, ask them to tell you their stories. You know what’s even better? My mom joined in when he started talking about college – they didn’t date in college, but they went to the same university at the same time, so their stories overlap, and it makes me laugh like no other. That’s how I know as much as I feel like I do about who and how my parents are in the world – I listen to them talk about who they used to be, and I think about how that jives with who they’ve become, and I love that juxtaposition that bridges time and exposes experiences. My life is the same way, so are the lives of all the people in my world. I love that we have that in common, that we have stories to bring us together.
Stories are my favorite metaphor. The last couple of blog posts have touched on the Word of God as a Big Story made up of little stories, and my life as a little story in God’s Big Story. I love songs because they tell stories. I love history because it’s a collection of stories. I love education because I get to interact and be woven into people’s stories.
And I love writing, because I get to decide how stories are told. Some of them are instances of my own, some of them I’ve heard from others, some of them I might’ve made up to prove a point. But at the end, each of these little stories I spin on this corner of the Internet tells a bigger story. This is what God’s done, will do and is doing. This is who I am, this is where I’ve been, this is where I’m going. This is my story.