Our Stories: Are They True or Is It Time for a Reckoning?
July 28, 2021
Our Stories: Are They True or Is It Time for a Reckoning?
Hi, everyone! It has been a while since my last post. The past 16 months have been a time of reflection, learning, rethinking, and shifting for me. I find myself in the land of in-between, still marinating, still discovering. I am an enthusiastic beginner exploring and uncovering hidden truths about myself, my community, and the country I have called home my entire life. I find myself reckoning with the fuller truth and the stories and myths that I have told myself for years. I think reckoning is naturally a part of growth.
My First Reckoning
My first great reckoning happened when I was 15. I had been diagnosed with epilepsy for years. However, with medication, I was a fortunate soul whose seizures were very much controlled. When I was 15, however, my life changed. My seizures were no longer controlled. Therefore, experiencing seizures became part of my life. Going to doctor’s appointments more regularly became part of my life. I became acutely aware of what I perceived to be the differences between me and everyone else. There were many times I felt alone, and I despised being different. I did not embrace my difference. Instead, I fought it and tried to minimize and even hide it. I was not successful, and I became depressed. Fortunately, my parents sent me to a wonderful social worker. Being the stubborn adolescent that I was, I did not want to talk at first. However, she was patient. Over time, we had what seems like a million conversations that helped me make peace with my epilepsy. Through that avenue I was eventually able to embrace my disability and perceive it differently. As a result, I changed the story about what it was like to have epilepsy. I had a reckoning with my disability.
I have had numerous other reckonings in my life, as I assume we all have. I had a reckoning when my parents announced they were divorcing. I had a reckoning when I found myself attracted to a woman for the first time. Heck, I had a reckoning when I was getting low grades on my English papers in college after I had excelled in high school English. That was a reckoning of my own ability and helped me see my high school education more clearly. I could have chosen to ignore any of these moments. I could have disregarded my attraction to a woman and pretended that it didn’t exist. I could have continued to believe that my writing skills were great, potentially rewriting the story into one where I was a victim of a bad professor who clearly could not see my ability. However, I would have paid a price for not accepting reality. I would have paid a price every time I opted to hold onto my chosen story and not be open to growth. Who knows what that price would have been?
Opportunities to Question our Stories
I look around now and I have witnessed many moments of reckoning over the past 16 months. The pandemic has offered the opportunity to reckon with so many stories that I have been consciously or unconsciously telling myself for decades. First, the pandemic has not been the “great equalizer” as we all thought it would be. While we were all experiencing it, we experienced it differently based on race, class, immigration status, age, and disability. So, if you are curious like me and ask “Why has the pandemic experience been different for us based on labels,” I hope you have dug more deeply into answering that question. I know I have. With that question alone comes many opportunities for growth and for reckoning.
Reckoning is nothing to be frightened of, though many of us are. We are afraid to learn more and to disprove our old myths and stories. We want our stories to be true. After all, we have been telling ourselves these stories for quite some time. Our stories have become our identities; they make up who we are. It is as simple and as huge as that. Who are we without our story? This is why so many of us cling to the stories that we consciously and unconsciously tell ourselves. We live our lives based on these stories and behave in a way that shows our stories are true and real. However, what if our story has holes or craters? What if our story is simply a fiction that we have been telling ourselves? What then?
The Power to Choose
Will you decide to hold on to your story for dear life? Or will you decide to lean into the massive discomfort and begin to investigate?
The choice is each of ours to make.
I have learned that when I lean into discovery, I always benefit from that time of uncertainty and curiosity.
A huge part of my reckoning process has been being quiet and learning from others. What is life like for other people? How are they experiencing this pandemic? How have they experienced their education? How do they interact and experience the world? Quite frankly, it would be silly to think that everyone has experienced the world exactly as I have. Therefore, I have turned to memoirs, documentaries, films, and books by people of different races, religions, and so on to simply get a glimpse of how someone else walks through the world. Here are a couple of things I have really appreciated within the past 16 months.
Valerie Kaur, the renowned civil rights leader, lawyer, best-selling author, and educator continues to inspire me. I have shared one of her speeches in the past. I thought I would bring you this TED Talk from 2018. I encourage you to watch and to listen. She explains the three lessons of revolutionary love in a time of rage. “It takes will to wonder!” she writes, and I couldn’t agree more. Our curiosity and wonder about other people are revolutionary acts. Our curiosity about, and ability to listen to, our stories as well as other people’s stories is revolutionary!