I’ll keep this brief, but I want to let you, my blog readers, know that I started my podcast! It’s not the education podcast I envisioned when I posted about this a few months ago, but rather a show about stories of all kinds–books, movies, and anything else with a story arc (though, as I hope I showed in this first episode, that term “story arc” is a bit slippery). I’ll keep my ruminations about online teaching and learning here on the blog, and my observations about literature on the podcast–though there may be some crossover from time to time. If you like stories, listen to Episode 1 and let me know what you think!
Last Tuesday night–Wednesday morning, technically–between 2:00 and 4:00 am, I found myself driving around Bedford and Amherst counties, including brief stints on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the ominously named (and very dark and narrow) Father Judge Road north of Madison Heights. I saw a lot of deer and a raccoon, and I almost hit a small waddling creature that I didn’t have time to identify. This isn’t the place to go into why I was doing all this nocturnal driving, but I assure you that it was all legal and mostly safe, and I wasn’t up to anything unsavory. My point in sharing about this adventure is that although I was in a constant state of frustration, with occasional moments of mild terror, a small part of me–the creative part–was having a good time, because it kept thinking, “This is going to make a good story later.”
Because I spend a large percentage of my waking time reading, watching, and interpreting stories (and some of my sleeping time dreaming stories–I had a really stressful one after going back to bed at 4:08 Wednesday morning), I tend to see my own life as a narrative, with some experiences standing out as particularly excellent story material. I’m a pretty decent storyteller, I think (actually, someone told me that last week, and I was flattered), and I have to admit that I enjoy keeping an audience entertained and feel like I’ve failed when my stories don’t have the impact I’d imagined they would. And of course, there’s always a temptation to make my stories a little bit funnier or more shocking by altering events a bit. Telling stories always involves editing–deletion, highlighting, etc.–but I try to avoid crossing the line into fabrication, not least because I find it satisfying to think that my real life (just like your life, reader) is stranger than anything I could make up. I don’t think it’s an accident that some of my favorite–and most popular–blog posts have simply been stories about stuff that happened to me, like when I almost choked on the fumes of some spicy soup I was cooking or when I got angry and went all Hulk in my office.
Another occupational hazard of being a storyteller, even an amateur one, is the compulsion to come up with a lesson at the end of every story. So bear with me while I draw a spiritual parallel here: We can see our lives as a lot more bearable, exciting, and significant if we keep saying to ourselves, “This is going to make a good story later.” One of the hallmarks of a Christian worldview is the idea that God has written and yet somehow still is writing a story in which our planet is a major setting and every human being is an important character. The theological implications of this are too gigantic to even be broached in a short blog post like this, but I’m just asking you right now to think of yourself as a character in a story. That means a number of things: the decisions you make are significant, you are significant, and there’s more story to come. Isn’t that exciting? Even more exciting than a 3:00 am drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I’d say.