This is something I figured out at age thirteen: I get to write my own story. I don’t know if it is because I knew my father re-narrated his childhood; he turned his upbringing of maltreatment and bad parenting into his guidelines for what he never wanted to become. Maybe it was from watching my brother: watching Kevin pave his way as an educator in a Tae Kwon Do studio, then at a day-care at his alma mater, and now as an applied behavioral counselor for children with Autism. Who knows what is next for him. I don’t even think he really knows. But he knows he has a past that will support him.Or maybe it was my watching my mom transform from a hard-working nurse who showed up to work every day to an advocate for nurses even at a time when that is not a popular thing to be in her working environment.
And of course my sister Lauren. She’s the one who gave me my analogy when I was thirteen. She loves puzzles. Her feat is that she can do the puzzles without looking at the graphic side. Yep, she just sees how the pieces fit together. Lauren is lucky. Her world, at times, is in black in white. Mine is not. My pieces to my puzzle get strewn about. They shift every time I move. I lose pieces. Lose connections. Lose my spot. And then I have to change the way I’m looking at the puzzle. I step back and take a different approach. I alter my narration. I retell my story. I re-member something differently. I put my pieces back together in a different way than before and I create meaning.
Why did I have to hurt my back while rowing? It wasn’t clear then. And maybe my feelings will change, but now I see it as having allowed me to do my grad school search my senior year without having to stress about missing practice or regattas or letting down my team. Obviously, I didn’t hurt my back thinking that I needed an out… but it sure does make you believe in something bigger… or in yourself. In your own power to narrate your own life story. In your own power to make meaning out of things that at first just don’t make sense.
This is a type of psychology called Narrative Therapy which I explored at the end of reading “Helping College Students Find Purpose.” I have been doing this my whole life. It just makes me realize that it is a tool that I can use in my paraprofessional and soon to be professional work to help others find their own narratives. Stories have the power to move people. When we tell our stories and someone reads or listens to it, we are validated. Everyone deserves to be validated as a person.