Everything is a story. From the beginning of time to the end of human civilization, everything that anyone has ever done, thought, or dreamed is part of the Great Story. And each person, whether we are doctors or mothers or teachers or plumbers or nerdy computer technicians, contributes to the plot in their own small way.
Who am I? We all wonder this during different stages of our lives. Sometimes our role is unclear. We feel as though we are wandering aimlessly through a fog, lost among the shadows. Step after step, we move without sense of direction, hoping that somehow, the fog will clear, and we will find our purpose. And then, slowly, or perhaps without warning, the fog dissipates. Our talents, passions, and dreams collide together to form a galaxy within us, our sense of purpose shining like a new sun.
Ahh, we think. That is who I am. That is the character who I am meant to become; the role which I am meant to play. When we know it, we try to hold onto it, revolving like planets around our new identities. Some people manage to remain in that orbit throughout their lives. Many of us do not. Our roles may change or multiply, or, due to life circumstances, we may lose our way. Sometimes, because we are weak or afraid, we defy our destiny by choosing the path of least resistance. Or our purpose dims, like an eclipsed star.
What is my role? It is almost a silly question, because we all know the answer. It is that thing that pulses inside us like a heartbeat, that that which breathes life into us and makes us feel complete. Yes, today, I am a mother and a student. I am building a career which I enjoy. But that is not all. Those are not the thing which transforms me. Those are not my shining sun.
I am a storyteller. I have been a storyteller since I learned how to form words on paper. It is why I do not experience the world in the same way as many other people. We storytellers have the strange gift of seeing. I see you, well-dressed woman with the nervous smile, and your smooth, blonde ponytail – dyed just yesterday, because your husband has a wandering eye and an affinity for blondes. I see you, pale, wrinkled man, ignored on a downtown bench, wishing for more than handouts – wanting a warm smile, and listening ears; wanting to see your grown daughter who now lives so far away. I see you, dark-skinned young man on the train, head down, hands shoved in the pockets of your hoodie. I hear the music pumping through your ear buds, which is not what they’d expect, but a silky jazz solo you wrote yourself. I see all of you.
We storytellers are collectors of people. I store every detail, from their shuffling gaits to their booming guffaws to the way their eyes light up when they discuss their favorite topics. I collect these precious details, and then quilt together each vibrant, colorful piece. Then I present the new story like a quilt to the world, to offer warmth when the journey is too cold. Or perhaps it is more that I turn what I see into a mirror, and then hold it up so that the world may see its forgotten reflection. See? See us? We are terrible, wonderful, frightening, and kind. We are creative and selfish, helpful, and beautiful, and filled with so much despair and joy and indifference, and love. And we all give, and we all take, and with our many, many roles working together, we are a story that never ends. That is who we are.