On Storytelling

As part of my job responsibilities, I get to interview and write stories about people. Most of these are women who graduated from the school where I currently work. I never could have imagined I would work there, but alas, I do, and I get to write stories. Tell stories. Share stories. Somehow transcribe what I have witnessed, what they have witnessed, through something as simple as a phone conversation, and share it with a larger audience.

My predominant work responsibility for the past four months or so has been to oversee various marketing projects, ensuring deadlines are met and obligations fulfilled. It’s sometimes tedious but I enjoy it, capitalizing on my love of lists and uncovering what I’ve learned is my hidden passion for organization, albeit a looser sense and style than most Type A people would appreciate.

Every now and again I get thrown a bone, though, and I get to share stories. In the past week I encountered not one but two couples who work together in education, to some degree, and my heart leapt at the thought of continuing on my own path alongside Charles in the realm of education. Other stories revealed friendships that were rekindled after 20 years of silence and distance, connecting again only to realize that their paths had nearly overlapped in major cities across the globe, and their current day passions so neatly aligned with the childhood dreams they acted out in high school.

My colleague has commented that she can see it’s where my heart lies, in telling stories, somewhat of a documentarian, letting their words speak for themselves instead of injecting opinion or blanket statements about what was, or how it is, or what it means. That’s where my skills can grow into more of a marketing role, sure, but the way I work currently reflects the education and training I received up until now. These simple stories, told mostly in magazine-style formats, show what I learned to do at UTK when I was younger than 20. I’ll never forget Paul Ashdown’s magazine writing class, these beautiful stories told in fewer than 2,000 words, a glimpse into something much larger than oneself. Something so beautifully articulated and shared in a simple format, readable and digestible in less than 30 minutes.

My passion for that style of storytelling won’t fade, I know, no matter what twists and turns my career may take. And these stories reminded me this week of my own story, starting as a young journalist, diving into marketing, bouncing around experiencing the world for myself. Throughout this year’s dramatic life changes, I sometimes feel like I lose touch with those past lives of mine, the younger self that was more carefree, sometimes with reckless spending habits, highly social and energetic, never sitting still for too long. My story, for what it’s worth. But life changes, so it happens, and I’m learning to embrace the new view from this seat.

Sure, I still yearn for what was, and mostly I yearn to hug those I miss the most. Some mornings I wake up ready to reach for the sky, eager to make plans after work, to visit those people I crave. But many things keep me grounded. Ulcerative colitis sidelines my energy, and the various drugs I take drain me of my personality for months at a time. Now the baby Charles and I are growing takes up just as much energy and love in our soon-to-be little family, leaving me tired and giggly at the end of the day, overwhelmed by a new world of possibility that will come to us at the end of February.

So I will continue to write these stories, taking a stab at what I hope to be a modest and honest representation of people, some of whom I have never met, to an audience I may never see. But I was trained to do this, to share stories, and I will keep sharing my own through this shaky little portal. It just so happens that the wild ride of my 20s seems to have prepared me for this place, with a heart wide open ready to receive what is next.

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