I love a good story. When I was a kid, everything was about a story. My father would tell me about the times he and his brother got into trouble – and some things they got away with. Grandma would tell me about how things were two generations ago, Grandpa would read to me. Mom told stories with her art work; engravings that captured favorite memories and pieced them together. And like most kids, I had a transportative imagination. I didn’t just daydream, I was trying on virtues I admired; like a child in his father’s work boots.
Like most kids, that imagination eventually eroded. Something precious and definitive was lost and somewhere along the way, I stopped believing I could fill those boots.
A funny thing happens when one perceives ones own passions as a burden: they become exactly that. It’s a self-betrayal. That innocent and virtuous thing that was always meant to define you has been left alone, lingering in stagnancy. Many never resuscitate that true self, the one that just needed some cultivating.
It’s the death of a thousand razor cuts: little, painless severances that fit into a mold something which is too sacred to be institutionalized. It’s easy to make small agreements with conventional wisdom, especially when youth has such blind optimism. Slowly, the stories are lost.
I suppose the mid-life crisis is a wake up call for many. One day they wake from a daily-grind coma and find their life’s story boxed up in a cubicle. I suppose my mid-life crises came a little early. I’ve read somewhere that most high school kids live with a fight or flight level of stress. I don’t remember it being quite that bad, but I do remember the sinking hopelessness of not being able to adapt even while I still believed that fitting into the mold was a survival mechanism.
Stories were a distraction from that reality – and so I flew to them, never believing my own story would be anything exceptional, only wanting to escape reality. I never really appreciated the irony until now. There is much more to life than surviving.
AS G.K. Chesterton put it, “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.
Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
I decided it’s time to stop listening to the institution telling me what to fear. It’s time to let my story be told.
I love a good story.