In August 2015, the Atlantic Magazine published an article titled “Life’s Stories”. It was written by Julie Beck and the sub title of the article states: “How you arrange the plot points of your life into narrative shapes who you are-and is a fundamental part of being human.” In that interesting article Monisha Pasupathi, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Utah, offered a lot on this subject and stated that “In order to have relationships, we’ve all had to tell little pieces of our story”.
We share our life stores every day in a lot of ways, even in just our greetings with others. here are some examples of that. "Hi, where are you from?" "Where did you grow up?" "Which school did you attend?"
I watched a salesperson standing at the entrance door of a store in a local mall recently. She would make eye contact and smile as people passed by. A lady passing smiled and said hello back and then the two of them walked into the store together. I was near the door and overheard what happened next. The sales person had asked how the potential customer was doing and got a smile and a reply back. As they went into the store the sales person asked where the lady was from. She mentioned a town in California. The sales person replied with some enthusiasm. She knew the town well and they talked about the street where it turned out they had both spent time. The sales person had plenty of personal experiences in that town to talk about and share. They both relaxed and leaned back and just talked, enjoying each other. It was clear they both had made a connection by sharing part of their life story.
The event that connected these two people that day was something they had in common and shared. We see our own lives as a series of events but we connect the events with a narrative that becomes a story, as we look back. The resulting story that we to a large degree have constructed has a great deal to do with our self-identity.
In the last 20+ years I have had an opportunity to tell my own life story verbally in front of a group at least 20 times. Each time I told the story it was always a little different. It was different because I had thought more about the story and it became different with the time that had passed. Not just because I was remembering it different, but because I had rethought it and it's implications. . In that same time frame, I heard few hundred men present their life story and then often heard them tell their story again after a few years. The emphasis and substance of their stories changed too. Life stories are like books. They have plots, themes, time lines and key characters. We choose which of these are important and we connect the events in order to be able to present them in a narrative.
I want to present some thoughts about what influences shape our self-identity and I think the life story presents a lot of answers. People come and go in our lives but some become important and key characters in our story plot. Things happen. Events shape us. How we chose to look at those events changes. Books and authors influence us. Art, music, poetry, service,our heritage and even food can influence us even to the point of being part of the life story.
A poem by a unknown author suggests that "Some people come into our lives for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime". (See poetry section) Some feel that God sends the people that are needed. Others who may come bring challenges and darkness.
I believe that we have a choice in putting together the narrative of who we are an who we have become. We can pick which of the events we connect with, what we conclude about them, and then weave and reweave them into our story.
Not everyone will accept those conclusions. Some believe in free will and do accept them. Others are deterministic and believe that people are wired to be what they are. They say that we didn't choose our parents, or the time or place where we were born, or our genes, and that we are just are programmed by cause and effect causing our circumstances. to be what are.