What is Your Story?
Here's a question for you: what does it mean to tell your story? What is your story? As a former journalist, it was hard-wired into me from day one that everyone has a story. It doesn't mean that because it isn't in a book or a film that it isn't worth telling. It took me a while to truly appreciate that even I had a story that was worth telling, even if it was only to my son. Our stories are our truth. It is where our experiences come together to help us, and those around us, understand who we are. Our stories aren't about pleasing or offending. Rather, they are a unique opportunity to share, from our perspective alone, how life has unfolded for us, and how we choose to see ourselves. Plus, the reality is, if you don't tell your own story, someone else will (that's what we call 'assumptions') and it won't be from the most important perspective: yours.
That is the point from where Huma Abedin decided to write her story. Her recently released memoir Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds explores her experiences from her childhood in Saudi Arabia to a career at the White House in Washington. As chief advisor to Hillary Clinton for over 20 years, Abedin had the unique position of having the ear of one of the most powerful people in the world. She preferred being in the background, "invisible" even. But a very public scandal in her personal life, and the nature of news being what it was/is, meant that preference to blend into the background wasn't an option anymore as the spotlight was shining blindingly on her. Now, after many years of having others say her name and project their assumptions of her into the public sphere, her story needed to be told--by her. I've included a good conversation she had with the hosts of the American talk show The View. I chose this interview because it didn't solely focus on the scandal (although that is part of her story). Instead, they explore the multi-faceted person who didn't choose to be in the spotlight but who has since handled her life with grace and dignity.
Also in this week's #Repost is someone else who has chosen to take ownership of her name and story-- Amanda Knox. She is the former American student who was acquitted of the murder in Perugia, Italy of her roommate, British student Meredith Kercher. In this thoughtfully written article for The Atlantic, Knox talks about how easy it has been for everyone to assume so much about her despite the facts, and the evidence, dictating otherwise. This is in response to the film Stillwater starring Matt Damon. According to Tom McCarthy, the director, the film is both "loosely based on" and "inspired by" the events that forced notoriety onto Knox. Knox however contends that the film was made without anyone speaking to her, even if only for her perspective. It's a prime example of how stories about us are often told without us even being a part of them.
It's something people of colour have had to deal with throughout much of history. In fact, our histories are often told from a perspective that isn't ours. And perspective is important. Perspective is shaped by experiences and some experiences are unique to different groups of people. That's why we keep talking about inclusion and diversity. It simply means that our presence, our stories, our experiences are an active part of any future stories that are told.
Why? Because our stories matter. Yours. Mine. They matter because our hi-stories shape our present and ultimately our future. They have an impact on those who read them, hear them, watch them. They connect us with each other. We recognise ourselves in them because while we may not share experiences, we share emotions, we share the same desires and hopes--to be loved, to be respected, to be valued, to be seen.
Sharing stories, mine included, is why I started this blog. I wanted to create a community for those who were keen to explore other perspectives about life through lessons learned by others. Not everyone's life makes it to the big screen or pages of a book. Yet, if you were to spend 5 minutes talking to someone, asking them about themselves, and then really listening to what they were saying, you would be beautifully surprised by what you hear. It's for that reason why I often think every resident at a care home or retirement home should have a photograph of themselves from when they were young beside their bed---to remind those around them, their carers, their relatives, their visitors, that they have a story too.
So what does it mean to tell your story? At the very basic level, tell it to yourself. Remind yourself of who you are, what you've done and been through. Use your own story to help build you up every time you fall, every time you feel down, every time you question your worth. Your story is your armour and your handshake. It will help you connect with others while at the same time remind them that you are here for a reason. Your story goes beyond your CV so if you're exploring jobs, write it down--first for yourself and then for prospective employers. And if you have your own business, sharing your why, sharing the reason why you decided to embark on this entrepreneurial journey is the most authentic way to market yourself. Remember, your story is also about an ever-evolving sense of who you were, who you are, and who you want to be. And you get to decide how you see yourself.
There are other stories that have been included in #Repost this week that I am truly excited to share with you. From Ai Weiwei's search for home; Diébédo Francis Kéré's inherent understanding of sustainability in architecture; and Mary Parent's eye for a story worth telling on the big screen. As the producer for some of Hollywood's most profitable blockbusters including this year's Dune, Parent's priority is a commitment to the process of storytelling saying, "People have always fascinated me. Characters have always fascinated me and being a part of making something and entertaining people and telling stories where we see ourselves and the world that we’re in, to me, it’s the most satisfying thing.”
I recently watched Colin Kaepernick's Neflix Series Colin in Black and White (which you must watch by the way. It's so good. Brilliant soundtrack). The former NFL quarterback tells the story of his early life through the experiences that left a defining impression on him. His message is: "To the underestimated, the overlooked and the outcast, Trust Your Power." I would go as far as to say to anyone who has ever doubted their right to be themselves in a world that is constantly trying to tell them otherwise, trust your story. That is your power.