"This Story Changed My Life"

10:54 AM


In other words: why do we act like that might be a weird thing to say? (Inspired by a conversation with Anna because she's the greatest and we have good talks.)

"This story changed my life." 

"This story has helped shape who I am." 

"I've learned so much from this story." 

I think we've all had a story or two that has fundamentally changed us from the point we read it onward. We encounter the story and come away from it with something different, whether that's a new idea, new inspiration, new resolve, and so on. Ever since the world was created stories have run through our veins, and they're powerful. People pass down stories about their ancestors. About heroes in the past. About what life is like now, about what life could be like in the future and how we would react to it. Stories are the most effective mirror for humans; they show us our nature when we're afraid to say it out loud, and they show us ourselves in all our flaws and inner feelings. They show us that we're not alone, and they celebrate our differences. They teach us new things and new ideas. We tell stories out loud to our children. We read them in books. We watch movies and tv shows and plays and Broadway musicals. Stories can be in music, too, tunes drummed into our brains. Stories are the most human thing we have, in many ways.

So why does it feel so awkward or unrealistic or childish to talk about how a story has changed our life or shaped us in some crucial way? Why does that feel like something to be laughed at? 
Image result for stories gif

Maybe we have this idea in our heads that a story is fictional, so it can't have a lasting impression. They're fake people, why should they be important to us? They're just words on a page, what kind of substance do they really have? 

Maybe we don't encounter as many powerful stories as we should. Maybe we've watered them down, made them cheap and sensational until some of us rarely encounter stories that haven't been put together from a moneymaking formula.

Maybe we're a little bit weirded out by the idea that a fictional character could tell us so many truths about ourselves, and we don't want to admit that. 

I don't now. But either way, it's time to acknowledge more that stories are powerful, more powerful than anything else, and storytelling in its many forms is something of the utmost importance.

Books made up a lot of my childhood. My family is bookish to the extreme so from the time I was little I was listening to Les Mis in the car and listening to my mom explain it. We read Narnia and Lord of the Rings and Tom Sawyer for school. We've talked about the Iliad and read through it several times every few years for history way back since before I can remember. Now that I'm older we watch more TV shows; my mom introduced me to things like Lost and Falling Skies and yes, Downton Abbey, and so many others. We inhale stories like air. We talk about them. We process them. They're food in my house. So it's safe to say that ever since I was a baby, practically, I've been shaped by stories in some drastic ways. 

I read books by Lemony Snicket and learned about good writing, twists and turns, the cleverness of words, and developed an appreciation for language that still sticks with me. 

I cry over Les Mis because I feel it in my heart; when Red and Black comes pumping into my headphones I feel all that desire for revolution and big red flags and doing something, taking a stand, lurking in my bloodstream. 

When I watched Daredevil the first time through, earlier this spring, I realized what my writing was missing and what I wanted to do. My stories got better. My writing got better. I made a very valuable friend and we became close through interacting with and talking about the story. I'm a different person now than I was before I saw it, and I owe some of that to the show.

When I read Neal Shusterman's books the first time through he wrote about characters like me that let me know I wasn't alone, and I could be "special", too, in my own way and with my own talents and way of thinking. you knew that was coming.
Image result for les mis flag gif
*tears*
So wouldn't I be lying if I said I'm not who I am today because of some "fictional" things?

The truth is, life is a messy and beautiful thing; humans are messy and beautiful creatures. It's hard to face that out loud or find it in a world crowded with advertising the ideal and talking about nothing. It's hard to face who we are when we're smack dab in the middle of that reality. In the action of opening a book or starting up Netflix, however, and watching/reading/listening to a quality story, in the act of escaping, we're a little more able to see the truth of things. Presenting life through a different lens makes the truth all the more powerful. 

That's important. That's natural. That's normal. That's the way it should be. 

So I don't know why we make it weird. 

Stories have power. 

Stories change our lives, whatever form they come in. 

And I kind of just love that a lot.
Image result for stories gif
it just...it just made sense, man.

15 comments

  1. This was beautifully put, and I agree wholeheartedly. Stories do shape us. Thank you for writing this!

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  2. Cries inside because, yes, so much yes... I hate it when people belittle fiction. It is my personal opinion that reading good literature can teach us so much more about life than any textbook can. And OMG the LES MIS feels...
    There is so much truth to this post, Aimee, it's absolutely beautiful. BTW, you mentioned that Daredevil changed the way you wrote. Have you ever considered doing a post about it?

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    1. I should totally do a Daredevil post! I've wanted to write about it, but haven't quite found the way I want to do it yet. So that might be coming soon...

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  3. This is so, so important. Almost everyone has a story that's shaped them, though they may not realize it. This post put what I've felt about this for years into words, so thank you.
    Also, one time when I was about 9 or 10 Les Mis was on TV for some reason, and until that point I don't think I had ever seen my mom so excited about making me watch something.

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    1. Ugh Les Mis just slays you, doesn't it? It's so important.

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  4. I want to show this post to literally everyone on the planet. Wow.

    I had a similar childhood- I grew up on stories. And I honestly don't understand people who don't understand the importance of them. Stories and characters are so beautiful and complex and relatable, I've never understood how people just blow them off.

    I think that Wicked was one of the stories that I most connected with. I know that it's such a cliche for teenage girls to be like, "OMG Wicked is like, my favorite musical everrrrrr." But honestly, it will forever be my favorite. I don't know of a character I've ever connected more deeply with than Elphaba. And even Galinda- shallow and silly as she was, she had so many layers and truly was so complex, much more than people give her credit for. I just have so many emotions about that show, oh my goodness.

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    1. Yasss shove it at everyone. SHARE MY WORDS AND TOGETHER WE CAN TAKE OVER THE WORLD.

      I'm kidding. Probably.

      Anyway, I don't think it's cliche! We make a big deal out of being affected by "cliche" stories, or the "typical" ones, but really, every story affects each person differently, so there's nothing cliche about it. You have a relationship with the story that no one else does, and it's personal for you, and that makes it special.

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  5. ASDFGHJKL THIS POST. HOW DO I EVEN CONSTRUCT WORDS AFTER READING THIS POST?? <3333333 wow. yes. to everything. (Also have I ever told you that I love how every time I come to your blog there is always something GENUINELY AWESOME AND INTERESTING AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING TO READ. IT'S FABULOUS.)

    I feel this sooo hard. When you talked about growing up around stories and how stories have shaped you...MY LIFE STORY, BRO. (Also I highly approve of Downton Abbey. <3) My family and I always watch BBC dramas together and then viciously pick them apart/discuss the different elements and plots and characters and how the stories compare and change and affect the characters... AND HONESTLY I DON'T THINK I WOULD BE A WRITER WITHOUT THIS. It feels so necessary to have stories in my life. it's like... AIR. HOW WOULD WE LIVE WITHOUT THEM???

    Basically I cannot even reiterate anything more because YOU NAILED IT OUT OF THE PARK (i know that's two different sayings put together right there see this is what your awesomeness has done to my brain)

    lotsalove,
    abbiee

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    1. *high fives* one of my favorite parts of the stories that have shaped me are the discussions I have with people/my mom afterward! For example: Marvel movies play such a huge role in my life, not just because they're awesome, but because my entire family participates and discusses and flails and we make something deeper out of those stories with our interaction. I do the same thing with my mom and BBC dramas, so I feel you there!

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  6. I know I'm late to the party but this post voiced everything I'm always talking about. So many books,TV shows, and movies have changed my life and I'm not ashamed to say it. I think it takes a special person to realize that fiction is one of the realest, most probing forms of connection and communication.
    I applaud you Aimee!
    ~Akilah
    palatespleatsandplots.com

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  7. Yes, people always laugh or look at me weird when I tell them that, but it's true stories can change you.

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hey. hey. talk to me. i'm a fan of comments and flailing with you. go for it.