The stories others remember 

Today for class my professor had us text our friends and family and ask them, “what’s your favorite story about me?” She then had us put away our phones and wait.

After awhile, we were to pick one of the responses and think about why that person remembers that story, and what it says about you. The idea was to deconstruct why we tell each other stories–to see the stories we tell at parties as a (true) mythology of ourselves. This is how we cement our personal identity in a group.

My sister told me her favorite story was the time we were playing hide and seek in my grandmothers house. It was my turn to hide, and the grown ups were telling me ideas on where to go. Now, my grandmother collects dolls. Three-foot-tall, life size dolls that live in the corner of her living room. My sister is counting down, and I decide, hey, I’ll be a doll.

So I posed in the back, smiled, and waited. My sister hunts around the house for a long time–she even makes eye contact with me and keeps looking. She actually thought I was a doll.

I thought for awhile why she remembers this and what it says, both about me and about her. It was funny, sure, and I do love making her laugh. But why does she tell other people this story? What trait of mine does it show, in disguise? 

I realized that this story shows that I don’t shy away from a challenge. Yes, a “safer” hiding spot would have been under the table or in a closet. But I chose to be a doll, the more interesting and difficult path.

This class literally just ended about 10 minutes ago, but I can tell this will be something that sticks in my mind. Why d we tell stories? Funny stories, cool stories? What does it say about us and our relationships? How is it that we bond through storytelling?

Telling stories is, of course, what I plan on spending my life doing. I guess it had never crossed my mind why stories exist in the first place. It had always seemed so obvious, just an integral part of humanity. It is, I think, integral. 

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Adaptable

I’ve always found one of the most compelling things about the human species is its adaptability. To live so successfully in nearly every climate in every corner of the globe is amazing in both its perseverance and its stubbornness.

I do wonder sometimes what people would do if their land didn’t feel like a part of them. Perhaps everyone would make like the retired do and move to warmer climes. I doubt anyone would look to the harsh winters and disappointing summers of Massachusetts and choose it over the consistent loveliness of Aruba, if given the choice.

But, land does matter, and so people adapt–stubbornly, wonderfully. They adapt to having an ice scraper in their car at all times, even in July. They adapt to sudden heat waves followed by a week of sleeting rain. Here, we adapt to unpredictability. Perhaps it is a side effect of living in New England that makes me equate land to weather, but it is an important thing.

Beyond weather and land, people still adapt. They adapt to long commutes, to suffocating subways, to polluted cities or quiet nights. Moving out, moving in, people being born or dying. Nothing feels abnormal if it happens enough times.

It is this inane ability to adapt to whatever life throws at us that makes me wonder if we are meant to be a wandering species. I know we were at first, but then agriculture happened and now here we are. After the huge leap of my great-great-grandfather moving to America from Italy, my family has lived in the same 20 square miles ever since. Now, I feel a deep inner pull to leave. To adapt to somewhere else.

Maybe those who stayed in one place adapted to staying. Staying eventually felt normal to them. Maybe I’ll eventually feel that way, too.

Driving for nearly three hours every day has begun to feel normal for me. I don’t mind it anymore. I’ve adapted. Sitting in a cubicle for eight hours straight no longer makes my eyes hurt from the computer screens. I’ve adapted to these things I thought I never would, in an exceptionally short amount of time.

Let’s go back to weather for a moment. I’m sure everyone has an inkling that warmer weather makes people happier, and I believe it’s true. However, more than the cold, I think the unpredictability of New England weather has a profound effect on the population. Yes, we’ve adapted to the unpredictability, armed with layered clothing and umbrellas at all times. But it makes us anxious. Having to prepare for anything weather-wise makes us wary of other things too. Perhaps that is why my grandmother clutches her purse in the city as if it may be taken at any moment. Perhaps that is why I look both ways when  crossing one-way streets, my faith in drivers so low as to expect someone to go down the wrong way. Perhaps that is why so few of my family members have left the western hemisphere or gone below the equator. They always expect a sudden change, they expect the dangerous and unexpected due to their upbringing spent expecting a sudden snowstorm to brew from a mild morning.

When people have adapted to an ever-changing world (be it due to weather, technology, globalization…) they can’t help but feel anxious and pessimistic. Whatever is present—the sunny sky, the new iPhone, peace in the world, the economy—is only temporary, and will soon change for the worse.

We are adaptable, but some embrace that and some shy away. Some refuse to adapt more than necessary. Some don’t find it a hassle at all. Some adapt by moving, and some adapt by sitting still. No matter our view on it, it’s part of what makes us human and a huge part of what keeps us alive.

Opening up conversation

Today I wanted to open up a conversation with you guys about a recent comment on my post from Wednesday, “I would prefer not to.”

The commenter goes by “A Layman” but was “M.E.B” at time of commenting, and their blog can be found here. Their comment:

 

It is a good concept that you bring up. My first question to you, which can only be answered subjectively, “What does it mean to live.” For me, I rebel because there is too much in this society. I rebel against the instant gratification. The instant creativity. Have a blog, everyone is a writer. There is nothing wrong with this, but having everything at our fingertips kills creativity, rather than enhancing it.
Creativity is a struggle. A struggle within and a struggle without.I don’t find working in an office, which I did after spending years getting a degree, enjoyable at all. I actually regret going to college at all. It was a complete waste of my time. In my opinion, I could have spent that time living life. Living it the way I would live life. Free. Another subjective word, of which it would take far more than a blog page to define what freedom means to me. In a few words, freedom is to be free of the society. Free of commercialization. Free of the hell that has formed around me by rich tycoons who control the colleges, the institutions and the government. Free, simply to be me. Not some droid with thoughts implanted into my mind to perform the duties of the society. I am not a member of a society. I am member of humanity.

 

This inspiring comment really made me think. I agreed with it, deep in my heart. I think a lot of us have the gut instinct to rebel and run away from all our responsibilities…but the realist in me was holding back. Freedom, in its nature, is a scary thing. It’s risky to be free, easier to go along with the system put in place by society. I can never quite decide which is better, for me or for others: to play by the rules, or to change the rules so the game is fairer.

I’d like to hear your opinions on this, since mine are far from being concrete. Without judgment, share your ideas. As a community we can have a great Friday discussion on freedom, creativity, safety, and society.