Isn’t it interesting how we choose to tell stories. In English we often opt for the classic: “Once upon a time…” I can still remember how intrigued I was when I first learnt about different approaches to this formula in other languages and cultures. In Armenian, Azeri and Cypriot (among others) stories are, for example, started with some variation of, “once upon a time there was and there was not.” I find the self-awareness implicit in these six additional words fascinating.
What about our own stories? The tales of where we came from, how we got to where we are and where we are going… How do we construct these? Moving abroad, or mounting the tightrope as I like to call it, has forced me to engage with the art of storytelling in the most intimate of settings, namely my own life. At times I have found telling who I am, where I come from, why I’m here: tiresome. As Margaret Thatcher rightly said: “Of course it’s the same old story. Truth usually is the same old story.” However, I have also learnt that untold stories are not stories. In the words of Ursula K. Le Guin, “The unread/untold story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader (listener), reading (listening to) it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.”
And sometimes when the strangeness of the culture that is slowly becoming my own makes my heart freeze I have to consciously resist the urge to withhold my stories and close myself off to seeing, hearing and experiencing the stories of those around me.
My parting note for today (I first and foremost say this to myself): Use what you have to tell the stories only you can tell. The world will be a richer place because of it.