Spring is the season to bloom, and the perfect moment to renew your commitments to pre-existing goals or maybe set some new ones. One of the goal I set myself for this year, is to be consistent in crafting and telling my story.
“What’s your story?”
An innocent question, that was asked to me once by someone I had just met. At first surprised, I thought about it but could not come up with a decent answer. An innocent question which stuck with me and convinced me that contrary to what many of us think, we actually get to define the way we are presented to the world. We do not have to wait until death or fame in order to voice the events and purpose of our lives. Now whenever I first meet someone, instead of “what do you do in life?”, I try to ask “what’s your story?” It is a weird question, one that tends to leave people lost for an answer. But I think it is a question you, and we, should all actively think about.
‘What do you do in life?’
A question which often demands an answer relating to your current status: your job, your education, your location, your age etc. Some answers will arise greater attention than others: “I am currently the president of the United States”, will surely get you that kind of attention. It’s a status to which is already associated particular ideas of power, awe, inspiration (though not sure how accurate this is with the Orange Devil that’s currently occupying the Oval office). It’s a status which needs no introduction and no story. There are very few statuses which allow for this amount of certainty, and that’s why just saying that you are a “biology student” would tell me very little if I want to know you, not your status. However, if I ask “what’s your story?” and you answer “I am someone who’s passionate about conserving the environment through the use of smart technology”; though I know nothing about trees, you have grabbed my attention.
I love real life stories and imagined narratives; I love listening to people talk about their dreams and ambitions. There is hope that I could relate to your past adventures or current dreams. Most importantly, by telling your story, you are already inserting yourself in history. It sounds a little dramatic, but it is true. You do not have to be dead or famous in order for people to pay attention to what you have to say. Telling your story means that you are aware and in control of who you are, the kind of person you would like to become and the purpose you are set to achieve. Most importantly, telling your story means that you are able to write it and re-write it again, whenever life takes an unexpected turn. In his book ‘Steal Like An Artist’, Austin Kleon writes that “the best advice is not to write what you know, it’s to write what you like. Write the kind of story you like best – write the story you want to read. The same principle applies to life and career: whenever you’re at loss for what to make next, just ask yourself, “what would make a better story?”
Almost four months into the new year, as I am trying to renew my commitment to crafting my story, I have been facing a wall. This wall is called grad school. It has prevented me from moving forward. It feels as if what I have been doing is not enough, that I am not being ambitious enough in my efforts. I could easily have titled this chapter of my life “why I am doing a masters?”. After weeks of feeling sorry for myself, I came across this quote while reading Shonda Rhimes ‘Year of Yes’: “When you feel the need to apologize and explain who you are, it means the voice in your head is telling you the wrong story. Wipe the slate clean and re-write it. No fairy tales. Be your own narrator. You will make it”. Here the fairy tale would be to love grad school and to go through it smoothly, which has not been the case (one day I will write about my academic experience, one day).
So I re-titled this chapter of my life “Spring and Afro”. Basically, spending more time enjoying the increasingly warm weather while strolling in the streets of Paris. And at the same time doing something that I love, which is caring for my afro hair or engaging in self-care in general. These are not particularly exceptional activities, but they require me to slow down and allow me to refocus on the beautiful bits of my story, in order to handle the not so lovely ones, better. It is the non-significant, which makes all the difference. Spring and afro is kind of like creating peace in the middle of chaos. It is my afro and spring, that are the reason why the next chapter of my story will be even better. The purpose in me telling you this seemingly insignificant details, is that I hope that it encourages you to accept that the story you share does not always have to be full of highs and full of shining moments in order to matter. It is the little things that will get you by, and that will make your story worth telling in the end. You don’t have to be on top of the mountain to enjoy the view.
Conclusion; write, tell and re-write your story. there will be plots you did not expect. a few undesired characters here and there. but with every unforeseeable twists, learn to re-write the narrative. switch up the location of the tale. kick out the villains. choose the soundtrack. make it dramatic, funny, awe-inspiring, colorful. surprise yourself, surprise us. copy a few intricate passages in a foreign language that you do not understand . learn that language in the next chapter. give your story a title. appreciate the small moments. learn to love the lows as much as the highs. And most importantly: go for a happy ending.