Guided By Story

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

Story is everywhere. Story can be found in the obvious places such as novels, movies, and songs. Story exists on your resume. Your Tinder profile. The clothes you wear. The car you drive.

What story does my 2012 Honda Fit tell? It says I’m practical and I’m more comfortable living within my means than riding in luxury. And I love that I ain’t got no car note.

Businesses can tell stories, and whether or not we like to admit it, stories do motivate us to buy. And we love retelling a good story. Some people enjoy eating at Raising Cane’s for the sauce. I enjoy eating there because of the story. Is the story true? I don’t know. Do I really care? Nah. I can forgive a certain degree of hyperbole or fabrication as long as I’m entertained.

Perhaps the concept of story is what drew me to a marketing degree, since marketing is another form of storytelling. People want to feel good about their buying decisions, and the right story told through marketing can make that happen.

If you’ve ever sat on the therapist’s sofa, you may already understand the importance of the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. If your parents abandoned you at a young age, you may have subconsciously told yourself you’re unloveable. Maybe you should start telling yourself that your parents made bad decisions that you ultimately must learn to handle in your own way. The event itself should not dictate the story you tell yourself.

On the flip side, if you find yourself in a wave of unhealthy relationships, telling yourself that everyone is the problem is not a healthy story. Maybe turn that story more inward.

The pandemic has forced me to think about my own stories. I have made myself sick and depressed with certain stories I’ve told myself about America and its future. I’ve beaten myself down with stories of coming professional catastrophes that have so far failed to materialize.

But I’ve also had time to think about the stories I hope those closest to me will tell about me after I’ve died. I hope they tell happy tales. And I hope they miss me, because no matter how I may try, I am still selfish and insecure and I need to feel as if I made a difference somewhere. And if we all would stop telling fiction about ourselves, we could feel comfortable admitting the same, and we could start pursuing these ambitions in healthy ways rather than convincing ourselves we’re somehow making a difference by yelling at each other on Twitter.

And so, when I find myself on my deathbed (hopefully not alone), I hope I can tell myself a story that makes it easier to go toward the light. I may not know the stories others will tell about me after I’ve taken my last breath, but if I can have data and anecdotes to back up the stories I hope they’ll tell, then I can think of no better way to leave this world.

That’s the story guiding how I’m living my life these days.