Today, WGT played us an excerpt from the podcast, The Moth. Basically, from what I understand, it’s a gathering where people can stand up and share their stories. It’s a “StorySLAM”. There is a theme, and the story must be true, fall within a time limit, and must be one of 10 chosen out of a hat. The best ones are featured on the website and podcast. They’re definitely worth a listen.
Anyhow, WGT challenged us all to write our stories. More to the point, she challenged us to change how we think about our stories. So often we define ourselves negatively: fuck-ups, wastes of space, failures. It’s a hard thing to change. Some of these ideas have been with us forever, and have become so ingrained in our lives that our stories reflect nothing else. For me, I could have done anything with my life, but threw it all away on illness and a dream. Now I’m 27, still fighting the same demons I’ve had forever, and my 6 years of college added up to a diploma that has no application since I’m not a performer anymore. I’m willing to consider MAYBE challenging these ideas SOMEDAY, but for now, I’m applying the lesson in a more general, external sense.
Today, I got on the subway, wedged myself into a seat, and plugged my iPod into my head, ready to disappear for the 20 minute ride home. Almost immediately, a woman squeezed herself in next to me, parking her stroller dangerously close to my ballet-bruised toes. With an elbow to my ribs, she pulled out her iPad and settled in to ignore her child. Many days, I would let the cloud over my head rain negativity all around me. Instead, I chose to reframe the situation. I focused on this little 4-year-old girl in the stroller.
She was playing with Post-it flags, singing a made up song, oblivious to the world around her. It was fascinating to watch her, so unashamed and free. She dropped a stack of the “stickers” and set out to find them, writhing in her stroller. I saw them tucked in the folds of her coat, so helped her in her search. She immediately grinned at me asking “What’s your name?” I told her, and she told me hers was Jennifer. She then proceeded to ask me what kind of phone I had. I showed her, and she asked after my iPod. (It’s amazing how young the youth of today start in on this stuff.) I let her hold my iPod, and she admired the sticker on it (a van Gogh Starry Night iPod skin – thanks Cameron). She told me she liked my hair, and I told her I liked hers. She told me she had just gotten it cut that day, and got to sit in a car “with keys and everything!” while she got it cut. I told her I’d love to get my hair cut at a place like that, and she informed me that I was too big to fit in the car. She then proclaimed, “You’re going to be my best friend!” Alas, my stop came (sooner than usual, it seemed), and I had to leave my new best friend behind.
I left the subway, holding my head just a little higher than usual, and noticed the most beautiful sunset I’d seen in a long time. Had I stayed in my usual isolated subway world, I would have missed out on all of it. It makes me think that maybe there’s something to this looking at things in a more positive light. I still don’t know if I’m ready to proclaim how fabulous my story is to the world, but it’s good practice, learning how well looking at the rest of the world positively worked out. Give it a try sometime. Find something you normally dread, and try to see it through different eyes. Yes, generally the subway sucks. But sometimes you can find a little nugget of joy in that tin can underground. Mine’s name was Jennifer.
Oh, and here’s that lovely sunset. I was upset that there were power lines obscuring it, but hey, I like having heat and lights and computer access and my TV, so I suppose even they have their place in a positive world.