What’s Your Story?

by Rachel Creager Ireland

I read in the literary magazine The Sun that the German romantics saw a person as defined by what s/he longs for, in contrast to the contemporary western view that we are what we do. And that’s how we get to know a person, by asking, “What do you do?”

I’ve always hated that question, though I can’t say I’m not guilty of having asked it. Other times I’ve asked a new acquaintance, “What’s your story?” Job is routine, but story is about movement and change, which is much more interesting. Where did you come from, and how did you get to be where you are now?

My own story is in flux, and I’m not sure what I’ll settle on. It used to be about pleasing other people, then it was about rebellion, doing what I wanted to do, and clinging desperately to an imaginary freedom. For a while my story was about being a victim, then fighting back, then choosing reconciliation over fighting. Then I changed it to having thought I’d been a victim, but eventually discovering that my greatest lessons had been learned through intense difficulty, which I’d mistaken for injury, which realization transformed my bitterness to profound gratitude. Another version of my story was about self-medication and eventual healing.

My dear friend Marva Weigelt proposes that, because of the non-linearity of time, the past is ultimately no more determined than the future. I had already come to the same conclusion logically, though I don’t have much practical experience with past-changing. It’s worth noting, though, that this is not about simply changing one’s perceptions; it’s about altering reality (assuming there is a distinction to be made between perception and reality -but that’s a discussion I’m not prepared to take up tonight). I’m thinking now that I might change my past, my story, to something I haven’t done before. It might be something about having been exactly where I was meant to be, every step of the way. I might like to throw in more playfulness, lightness, and joy. Perhaps I’ll say that I experimented a lot, that I wanted to experience every possible permutation of emotion and passion within the perceived limitations of the physical body, the dark as well as the light; and that I dove head first into that experiment and relished every moment of it. I’m liking this story already. The more I think about it, the truer it sounds. Isn’t that just what I did? You who’ve known me a long time, tell me it’s not true.

And what about you? What’s your story? I’d love to hear it.