I love stories, I always have, and I come from a long line of storytellers, both on my mother’s and my father’s side. When my sisters and I were little, we would huddle together under a blanket as my dad, in a deep deep voice, told scary stories of the Big Bad Wolf. In my mind I can still see the picture he painted: the ramshackle cabin in the deep dark forest under towering fir trees, and the telephone the wolf always used to call the pigs to trick them to come to different places where he planned to catch and eat them. I get goose bumps just thinking about it.
But I didn’t realize what a great influence stories have had on me and almost everything I do until relatively recently. I remember being about thirteen years old and struggling to remember important dates when studying for a history test in school. In my desperation, realized that if I read my history book like a story, it would be much easier to remember. And presto: I aced the test. Without knowing it I developed a tool for myself, which I use again and again, whether with my kids, with colleagues, with clients, or with students. If I prepare a lecture, for example, I weave a story of the theories, cases, and examples. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to even remember what I am supposed to talk about for 90 minutes. And when giving talks, I don’t think of them as presentations, but rather as stories I tell – again, more for my own sake than anything else. And it works; most people seem to like stories and I find that I can engage them in this way.
So when I saw one of Brené Brown’s TED talks a while back, I felt all the pieces of the puzzle just fall into place. I liked her talk – it’s definitely worth a watch – but it’s what she calls herself that I love. She calls herself a researcher storyteller, and when I heard that I though wow, that’s exactly what I want to be! And I am. Regardless of what I’ve done in my previous career or what I end up doing in the future, I have always been and will always be a storyteller.
I’m going to end with a quote I found in a novel a few years ago. I don’t remember much about the novel, except that I liked it, but apparently there was one passage that made an impression because I wrote it down on a piece of scrap paper that I found the other day when sifting through old piles. So here it is, Brian Morton in Starting Out in the Evening:
“The story-making organ never sleeps… The world, the human world, is bound together not by protons and electrons, but by stories. Nothing has meaning in itself: all objects in the world would be shards of bare mute blankness, spinning wildly out of orbit, if we didn’t bind them together with stories.”
Isn’t that just so true?