I never had a problem telling stories, even to a fault.
In Kindergarten, my favorite tall tale was that my teacher had married me to both cutie-pie Sean and red-headed Adam in one day. I remember how impressed I was with myself that my mother and aunt believed my story and only questioned the point that Ms. Jean had the power to become a priest.
In 1st grade, a dollar bill was found in the doorway between the classrooms. No one claimed it, so I saw an opportunity for more chocolate and said it was mine. Older sister Kelly was suspicious, however, and upon further examination I admitted it was just a wish. Sister Jeanne Marie hit me with her ruler and my sister labeled a tattle-tail. Although her actions brought out the truth, she still had to wear cat ears and tails for a day so the whole school knew she had tattled. (Logic was never the nuns’ strong point.)
I gave up a scholarship to the local Catholic HS for a fresh start a few cities away. From the very beginning there, I crafted my own history, my own mythology, carefully told and secretive so my sister, who attended the same school, would not have the ability to quash statements that I thought made me more interesting. For the most part, it worked, but a few major whoppers came back and whacked me in the ass (another story for another time).
Moving from Boston to New York for college allowed an even wider bearth for creating my past just how I liked it.Some stories I’d heard from others became my own. I tested reactions from various people and adjusted what they learned about me for maximum impact. I aimed for mysterious, irreverent, intelligent, rebellious, sexy and not someone that everyone should like.
Fast forward a few years and I move cross country from New York to Los Angeles in 2002 – a massive change for a lifetime public transport gal who had gotten her license mere days before the road trip. Moving with a (then) boyfriend means your past and present travel with you, so how did this upheaval affect my storytelling?
I saw my stories in sharp relief to my present and hopes for my future. This mostly fresh start – amplified by the eventual break-up with the boyfriend – renewed the feeling that stories are vibrant. Stories are life. Literally moving out of my comfort zones meant my career and personal path is literally up to me. I was no longer beholden to perceptions anyone had, including my own to myself.
Visiting the east coast progressively got harder for me. I fell back into the old stories, the past, the rhythms of family members who I had already outgrown. I saw family and friends’ prejudices and (mostly wasted) potentials much more clearly, then applied the same criticism to myself:
In what areas of my life did I experience growth and what nasty, sticky preconceptions still lingered?
That is a question I ask myself every single day.
To be continued. Always.