These essays are about who we are and in many ways, who we want to be.
I frequently find myself considering the fact that there are 7 billion people on the planet. Each person has her or his own reality which is a perpetual, unsettled, shifting maze of emotion and experience. The odds are, I won’t ever meet more than a small fraction of our 7 billion. Of those I do meet, most won’t grant me the privilege of knowing the intricacies of their realities.
There is an infinite number of stories to tell. The idea that so many of those accounts will go untold haunts me. They number in trillions, increasing exponentially every second; a proverbial library expanding at a rate which combats that of the universe.
We come from stories. Who we are. What we love. Why we behave the way we do. The accounts of our lives- of the trials and tribulations intertwined with our successes- that is the makeup of who we are. They are meant to be shared and yet, so frequently lie untapped. I wonder what they could do to the planet if someone went out and found them: put them on the lips of the world to tell.
I know, without a doubt, that is what I am meant to do. When told correctly, with awareness, as opposed to fear of the repercussions, stories can change your life. They can bring the New York Times to your doorstep and put your school on the map.
There is no room for fear in storytelling. It takes bravery to see both sides of a story and to tell it from a third. Between two parts lies the truth- the most enticing aspect of which is how elusive it tends to be, coyly hiding between the frivolities of the world. Perhaps that is why I am so deeply drawn to the truth in the stories of people’s lives: because it is something one must work for – truth will not simply turn itself in.
There are plethora of truths waiting to be tapped by someone who has the desire and capacity to tell them. Though not all are asking to be told, in many cases, those are the ones that the world most needs to hear. Like most people, the majority of stories doesn’t live in the United States. They bud from war-plagued jungles of the Congo, from the fast-paced inner workings of Shanghai, from girls who aren’t allowed to go to school in Iran. They come from problems which my privilege has shielded me and from which western mass media has blinded me. Just because we don’t hear about Boko Haram kidnapping hundreds of girls doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. When a tree falls in the forest, it makes a sound regardless of who’s listening.
I’m listening. To understand and share the truths of the world, the honest realities of people infinitely different from myself, is what I strive for in all that I do. For so long, I sat stagnantly in the comfort of my bubble, harrowingly unaware of our Earth’s 7 billion. In my comfort and security I slowly began to deteriorate under the mindset that the entire world looked exactly like mine. Not until my peers attempted to viciously tear me apart for telling the truth did I understand its importance. There is no fun in addressing the ugly, uncomfortable and unnerving- but we must grow. To grow, we must learn. To learn, we must listen.
Stories, and the people whose lives they paint fragments of, can be intimidating. They have always scared me, from the moment I realized that something intangible had the power to completely disarm me, and at the same time be the only thing which could bring me from my small, guarded reality into something infinitely beyond myself. Without the world’s narrative, we resort to living through only our own experience – dissolving the ability to learn what it’s like to be anyone except ourselves.