We discover the world through its stories, found or imagined, ours, our friend’s, our family’s, our culture’s. We use stories to create or strengthen ties with new and old acquaintances; it is how we come to understand the world, the continuity of time. The stories we hear generate a flow of relatable events that shape and decorate the river of our lives. Their impact and relevance are tangible and real whether the stories themselves are true or not. Stories become statements that illustrate or reflect upon more complex systems of values, perceptions, rules.
We often spend more time listening to stories than creating our own. We are immersed in narratives about culture, values, rules, the nature of what is beautiful or terrifying, the origin of our collective fears, the core of our society’s challenges, the meanings and manifestations of love. We continually embrace some of these stories and reject others. We use our adopted stories to create a framework from which we reason about the world we live in. As for ourselves, we shy away from telling our own stories because they expose us, reveal what we think, how we feel, why we act, who we are. What we disclose might not correspond to the stories other people have. It is easy to adopt the narratives provided by society; they feel safe, tried, pre-approved by everyone else around us.
Think that everything could, and eventually must be different.
To create our own stories is, therefore, an act of defiance and a manifestation of our freedom. What is the world to us? What is important, dangerous, beautiful? Who are we other than what we were told? What do we believe in? What are our reasons to exist other than society’s pre-digested narrative? Where are we going and, is that place different than the one in the stories we grew up with?
The narrative of our life -from who we are to where we should go- may be dangerously tinted by an imposed normativity that often leaves no room for your own story. We were educated that way. We grew up listening to stories of all kinds, and often our personal stories remained within ourselves, a pastime, a paper bird that could never really take flight in the world of adults. We grew up hearing “Here are your options”, “This is what is valuable, scary, desirable, believable”, rather than “Tell me who you are and what you want your options to be”, “Teach me the language you have created for the world, and how you live on it”.
Without realizing it, right this moment we could be living a story that we didn’t invent, a story that was imposed on us. Tell me, when exactly did you decide you had to live your life like this, and when you did, what guided your hand? Who gave you those values then? Why did you pick this religion, this gender, this language? Do you remember when you decided what is beautiful? When was the last time this definition changed? Where do your fears come from? When you are with friends, what are the stories you tell? Why do you pick those stories?
When was the last time you questioned it all?
How much of the story you live is your own, and how much comes from other places? Can you tell the difference? Often our society and our family expect us to play a clear, predictive, existing narrative; we learn this behaviour from a very young age, and we follow it without even noticing.
We should therefore imagine! Break all the moulds and stand in constant re-invention of everything. We must explore like kids, touch, relate, feel, connect with others and ourselves. We must never take anything for granted. A brave act of rebellion; your society (and indeed your religion, if you have one) may not expect you to be an independent thinker, an agent of challenge and divergence. You may not feel this like a natural process, most of us were never taught how to do it.
Disrupt, redefine, dream awake. Challenge your ideas; always wonder “What If?” Think that everything could and eventually must be different. Touch, kiss, move in improvised and unexpected directions.
Find the plot within yourself and the world around you, see stories and create narratives for them. By telling these stories you make them real, you enrich your life, and make an art out of living.