THE STORIES WE TELL

storiesHow real are our memories anyway.  I mean, how much of what we remember actually happened and how much is colored by what we either wish happened or what we think should have happened?  You get the idea.

I guess I’m doing a lot of remembering lately.  I’m not sure how great an idea that is, to be honest; my memory tends to lead me down paths I’d rather soon forget.  In fact, there are things I thought I had forgotten for good that are once again making a play for my current thought’s attention.  On the other hand, an occasional stroll down amnesia lane can sometimes lead to a pretty good story or two.

When I look back to my recent past and recall my days as a teacher, I remember my dear students, seniors in high school, struggling to find their way, children trying to break free and begin their lives.  Everyday I wanted to say two things simultaneously: 1. Relax and slow down a minute.  There’s no rush, you’ll get there. 2. Go for it and go for it BIG!  Change the world and don’t think for a minute that you can’t!

When I would tell these students stories of my time “back in the day,” as I was often wont to do, I tried to be as honest and truthful as I could.  To me, it just doesn’t make sense to try to earn and keep someone’s trust by lying to them from the get go.  I may have changed a name or two to protect the innocent and all that, but the stories were all true.  At least they’re true in my recollection. And that’s what’s getting to me– my recollections, my stories. Do they matter?  Does anyone really care?

Stories are important. We learn from them. They shape who we are, both individually and collectively as a society.  When we meet one another for the first time we ask for them, “What’s your story?”  From stories, we learn what people are like; we learn where they’ve been and where they want to go.  When my late grandmother told me stories about her childhood during the Depression, it had an impact.

Why is that?  Well, I guess it had something to do with trust; trust in the fact that she told me things so that I would learn something; trust in the fact that there can be reason made from experiencing a thing, reason that may not otherwise have seemed reasonable.  Maybe it’s just comfortable to share experiences. Yeah, maybe it’s about sharing.

Whatever the case may be, I’ve realized something about delving into the past– experiences and recollections are so very personal. Our perspectives can sometimes cloud our memories. How we recall events, places, and people has so much to do with how those things affected us. What we’ve become as a result of our encounters with those people, places and events cannot be undone.

I saw the Mona Lisa with my own two eyes in 1987.  I can never unsee it.

I also saw a woman choking to death one time.  I can’t unsee that, either. (She’s fine, btw. Interesting story…)

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