The last time I saw him we were just eighteen years old. It was graduation day, and I remember our conversation like it was yesterday.
We didn’t tend to run in the same crowd, but on this celebratory day he and I found ourselves sitting together on the grassy boulevard near the school. The fact that we hardly knew each other didn’t seem to get in the way of us sharing our hopes and dreams with one another. When it was time to go, we offered our appreciation for the unexpected conversation, and headed off to make our way in the world.
Fast forward thirty-five years to an event earlier this month. Amid the din of 700 spirited voices in an acoustically challenged room, our paths crossed once again. After the hugs and expressions of joyful surprise had quietened, he smiled and asked, “So, what have you been up to for the last three decades?”
We did our best to compete with the noise level in the room and provide a snapshot of how our lives had unfolded so far. Each of us had a kaleidoscope of stories to share that reflected a full range of highlights, lowlights, and shades in between. Not surprisingly, our stories showed some similarity, but for the most part, were quite different from the eighteen-year-old versions we imagined for ourselves on that grassy boulevard.
The timing for this encounter could not have been better. For the last couple of years, I’ve been focused on the power of story and the choices we make with respect to how we create and tell our stories. And not just the stories we want for our future, but also the stories from our past.
While I’ve been given my share of blessings, I also don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times in the last thirty years that things didn’t turn out the way I had planned. Countless times I’ve been left wondering why certain things happened and others didn’t, or why just when things seemed to be going right, they took a hard-left. How we interpret these kinds of experiences is key, because those interpretations become our stories.
There’s a myriad of ways to interpret life’s twists and turns. Some of those ways are more helpful than others. With practice and reflection, it gets easier to connect with the bigger picture of why our paths unfold in the directions they do. When I take a mental step back and look at my story overall, I could draw the events and encounters like a ‘connect the dots’, each twist and turn leading to the next dot, and the next dot, and the next – each one leading me closer to here, today. And with each dot comes a little more knowledge, a little more strength and resilience, and even new opportunity. How often do we hear ourselves say, “If this hadn’t happened, then I would never have _______.” (met this person, had the idea, learned this, discovered that)
We are the authors of our stories, which means we get to choose, and even change, how we tell them. Any story, anytime. As Dewitt says, “Change your lens, change your life.” The celebratory stories are easier, it’s the ones we need to go looking for what was right about them that requires intention, and when we do, it's a game changer.
He may not be a world-famous rock star, and I may not have starred on Broadway (yet), but I have this amazing collection of twists and turns that got me to this day, and it’s a pretty cool story. It was a sunny afternoon in June...
To be continued…