Words in My Head

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The Grooves of Story

A weekend ago, I attended my 30th high school reunion and I was surprised. Surprised at how social I was this time. Surprised at how some people became more of what they were in high school, just weathered a bit by age and experience. And surprised by how little we all changed. 

In the days since, I’ve begun pondering those deep grooves of the past, and how easy it is to slip into them.

Finding a Groove

Photo by James Sutton on Unsplash

What the hell does that mean? Yeah, I’m kind of wondering that as well.

Starting the Groove

We are all products of our own experiences. Perhaps we’ve learned a bit from others along the way, but I’ve found that often we only learn what we are willing to learn as we take in the sights, sounds, and actions of our own lives. Sometimes that’s easier than others and we find a groove right away. And some lessons take a few spins on the record player to scratch that first faint groove. 

Once we have that first groove, it’s there in the record of our experience forever, barring some form of injury that affects our brain or our mental state. Like they always say, “it’s like riding a bike.” I haven’t ridden a bike since college, so I haven’t tested that for a while…

Rediscovering the Groove

I’ve never been a social butterfly, but once I get to know people I am more likely to share some time with you. I tend to use that time listening more than talking, but I like hearing about people’s lives and may even toss in some of my own stories, observations, or insights every now and then.

Photo by Gades Photography on Unsplash

For several hours at the reunion, I fell back into old grooves. I gravitated towards the same folks I did in high school — the nerds and the band geeks. Funny enough, that groove never changed – I still like hanging out with those same people.

Just like at the 10 year and 20 year reunions, the same cliques formed that did when we were in school. We all fell in line easily as the ’80s music played all night long, seeking solace and comfort in the familiar while catching up on what had happened since the last time we saw each other.

But it quickly became apparent that each of us was worn by that time between. Some spent time in the military or the police. Others went into artistic careers. Many married and had children. A few were divorced and single or re-married. Some battled cancer or other illnesses themselves or with family or friends.

We all had new grooves in our records. Some were deeper than others. 

One individual had suffered memory loss due to an event, so she was being re-introduced to us all — trying to find those faint scratches from years before. 

We all had a shared history, whether we remembered faces and names, deeds or experiences from those decades ago. It was good to find the grooves we’d left behind.

Keeping the Records Spinning

We all have stories from those years in high school, and yet I was much more interested in hearing the stories I hadn’t heard; tales of jobs and children, travels and experiences. I am not convinced I shared enough, but I did listen to it all with as much focus as I could muster.

Reconnecting with the past reinforces just how far we’ve come and yet how little we’ve changed. It’s a strange dichotomy in many ways. But I’m glad the records still played. 

The Power of Story

For years, I’ve been attempting to find my “raison d’etre” or reason for being. Sometimes the water of life gets muddied by the debris kicked up by human experience and those bedrock notions get lost. In my case, I’m not sure it’s ever something I really stopped to consider until fairly recently. As we get older, I think those moments of clarity have become more important, but it’s a bit like an archaeological dig at times.

I’ve never led what I consider an exciting life. A moment here or there, perhaps, such as falling in love or witnessing the birth of our children, watching the events of the Challenger Disaster or 9/11 unfold, or dealing with the sudden loss of a dear friend. For the most part my seas have been relatively calm with a few storms now and again. My history is not one of epic moments affecting others.

In the end, my goal is to lead a quiet life where I try to do the right thing when I can and accept my own mistakes and limitations when I can’t.

Some days I succeed.

However, I realize that when I’m happiest, I’m usually wrapped up in a story of some sort told in the company of friends and family. Sometimes they’re my stories. Sometimes those of others. Sometimes they are fictional. Sometimes factual. And all have some element of truth to them.

What I’ve come to find out is that everybody and everything has a story to tell, happy, sad, or ridiculous as they may be.

When we look at history (or herstory), it’s the “story” part that’s key, told from a particular perspective with it’s own biases. And yes, we all have biases.

Good nonfiction lets us draw our own conclusions about real events and people from the facts. Good fiction lets us follow along as our favorite characters stumble along, drawing THEIR own conclusions from their experiences and relationships. And no two people will read the same story and come to the exact same conclusions because no two people have the same life experiences to draw upon.

Consuming a story is not a passive act any more than creating one. We process it through the lenses of our own lives, generating an internal retelling of the tale using our own stories to relate whatever truths we find there and store them to memory.

Stories are magical. And like all magick, it can be beneficial or it can be dangerous.

That’s the beauty of art. Whether you are singing its praises or detailing its faults, you’re right. But others may not share your opinions. Feel free to share them, but don’t be alarmed when others’ opinions differ from your own.

My reason for being is to find and tell stories, both real and imagined. What’s your story?

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