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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Teaching my sister Gatsby

My sister, a junior in high school, is reading The Great Gatsby and writing a paper on Huckleberry Finn. Could there be a more perfect duo of high school books? I read the two of them in one year as well.

It’s important because this was the first time she’s asked me for help on something, I think, ever. I’m sure she’s asked me to help her open a jar or something (though, she’s always been better at opening jars), but this is the first time for something like this. And, more surprisingly, she listened.

For about an hour I went over her paper with her, explained how she could make it more coherent and in better support of her thesis. Then I walked her through the first few chapters of Gatsby, explaining why yellow is important and who Daisy’s married to anyway, and what, exactly, even happens? It was a lot of fun rediscovering these two great works of literature that are too-often disregarded as high school stuff.

I don’t get to spend a lot of time with my sister anymore. I live away from home, and when I am home we’re both usually too busy. Even when we are in the same place, she likes television shows I don’t and I like peace and quiet more than she does and so we usually end up in separate rooms.

It was great helping her understand. She said her teacher isn’t doing much teaching, which I think is horrible. People lose their passion very easily…though, if her class is anything like some of my high school classes, I can see why the teacher wouldn’t be super excited to get up in the morning.

I guess why it stuck out to me so much is that it was the first time it seemed that my sister didn’t think I was stupid. I don’t know what it is—even though I’m older and in a good school and maintained good grades and etc., she always seemed to think I was just plain stupid. She never listened to my recommendations, always shrugged off my ideas, and never, ever asked me for help. It was really nice to bond with her, even if it was over something so silly. After all, even if we don’t always get along, I do miss her. And I do hope she understands Gatsby a little better now.