Is there a single experience in your life that you think of as “pivotal”—an encounter, a lesson, a conversation … something that you connect directly to who you understand yourself to be today?
Several stories emerge immediately in my mind—my parents’ marital separation; a college experience that opened my mind to the intersection in my life between religion and politics; a moment of disillusionment with a romantic partner; my first-ever psychotherapy session; coming out to my parents as UU and Democrat and not-straight; hearing the sermon that provoked my application to divinity school; the phone conversation in which Graham and I first expressed our more-than-friendship affection for one another; our decision to (try to) become parents.
We who serve on your UUCC staff have been doing some development work recently, including working to cultivate a more relational environment on staff and in the congregation. One of our facilitators has invited us to identify 2-3 pivotal moments from our lives—moments that have shaped who we are today, what we’re passionate about, what motivates us, why we’ve made the choices we’ve made—and to be prepared to share those brief stories the next time we gather.
As I reflect on this invitation, I find myself wondering if the stories I mention above are the right stories. Most of them are the stories I’ve told before, repeatedly—in part because they are pivotal and important, but also because most of them are fun to tell and can be entertaining to an audience.
I remember hearing years ago the notion (maybe from poet / writer David Whyte, though I can’t now find the reference) that we are not in the habit of engaging in real conversation with each other. Rather, we repeat the same few stories over and over again. Oof. I felt accused when that notion was shared—I certainly repeat my favorite stories and don’t make a lot of effort to recall other ones.
And as I imagine cultivating relationships through stories at UUCC, I wonder if there are more layers of my storied identity that are worth exploring. Are my usual stories the most pivotal, or merely the most entertaining?
So I’ve accepted this invitation as a challenge to identify and tell some stories that emerge less readily, that I have to think about a little more, that may feel more vulnerable. They’ll probably be related to the stories I often tell, but they won’t be exactly the usual, popular chapters of those stories.
I expect to learn myself a little better. I look forward to sharing that self more fully.
What unexamined layers does your storied identity hold?