This last month Jaron and I have had the opportunity to lead a few storytelling workshops on the concept of using persuasive stories to affect policy change. In giving these presentations, I learned something about my own story.
Until recently, when Jaron and I have led story development workshops, we started by describing how Self Narrate came to be, which as it happens, was a class project that evolved into a story development initiative. We found that our audiences did not engage with that story nearly as much as they did when we shared our personal stories. We decided in our most recent presentation that we were not going to share much of anything about the history of Self Narrate, but rather, Jaron and I would each give our personal stories that show how we got to where we are now.
I was apprehensive about this. I had never actually shared my story fully in a workshop setting. You see, I went through a traumatic experience about two years ago. I got divorced. My entire understanding of who I have become was wrapped into the aftermath of that experience. I developed my personal story to show how much I have grown since going through that dark period. However, I did not feel it was appropriate to discuss details, even vaguely, of an event that I was not the only person impacted by.
So here I am, faced with the task of determining how I will share my story when I realize that the story that I feel defines me most (in the context of showing where I came from) is a completely unrelated story. It is a story about how I chose to leave my burgeoning theater career behind me because I was seeing that if I continued working night jobs for the rest of my life, I would not have a strong relationship with my daughter. I saw it happen to my co-workers. My daughter is far more important to me than my own personal ambitions.
By sitting down and asking myself “what is my story now anyways?” I re-evaluated how I feel about the events that have transpired in my life. I realized that my story transitioned from finding my self-worth in a negative moment of my life to a moment of transcendent decision-making that changed the course of my life towards what matters most to me. What I learned from this is that even though certain events in my life may have defined my own perception of my story for a period of time, by continuing to re-evaluate and edit my own story, I have actually witnessed myself moving on and growing.
Your own understanding of your story can, and will change. Never stop reflecting on your life. Never stop asking yourself “what is my story?”