“In the end, we’ll all become stories.” – Margaret Atwood
There is something haunting about our existence being subjected to the eyes of everyone else. But I don’t think this only happens when we’re gone. It happens now — every day, every second.
If I am only a story, I hold very little control over how I am told… or who tells me, or to whom they share. I am the subject, constantly at the mercy of anyone willing to read me.
Everything I do is theirs to tell. And yours. His, and hers. Every word I say, once it leaves my mouth, is yours to remember, or forget.
No wonder we want so badly to immortalize ourselves.
I catch myself thinking about how I hope I’m a story he tells months or years down the road. Hopefully it’s funny, or even cathartic. I hope I am her story to tell new friends, about our younger years. And my mother’s story to tell her waitress or her dentist. I wonder if I’m their story, those cyclists I met. They have definitely been my story. I know I will be the story for everyone in the cafe who watched me spill my coffee this morning. I wonder if they will laugh while telling it, or sigh with pity.
We think we tell stories, but we don’t. We are the stories. The way we carry ourselves, the way we react, the way we smile, what we show, what we hide, tells it all. We go on as usual — making decisions and having conversations and perceiving the world and inhabiting space — and it’s up to everyone else to decide what gets told when we are gone.
I tend to like analogies too much. I find a cool parallel and then I run with it – a little too fast, and definitely too far (see? I did it again). But they carry truth. Instead of stressing about how little control I have over how others see me, or how I will be remembered, I find liberation in thinking of myself as a story — a mere collection of thoughts and narratives. Some people have chosen to read me carefully, studying each sentence and turning the pages with ease. Others have flipped through nonchalantly, skimming for what’s important and disregarding the rest. Then there are those who pick me up, read the back cover, and put me right back down, assured they already know the ending.
This is inevitable – we skim some, we immerse in some. I do it right back. Our library can only be so big.
You are all my stories to tell. I will say what I want of you. I will read you gently and soak it all in. I will not be afraid to highlight, and I will not be afraid to read aloud. I will cherish the moment when I realize a story has ended, because it means I get to go back and revisit the parts I underlined. I will love the moment a story begins, because I’m introduced to the bewilderment of new ideas and fresh pages.
Surrounded by stories, saturated by sagas… we have no choice but to keep reading. We have no choice but to keep telling.
The story we live is really all we get to leave behind.