Don’t let people tell you what your story is…. They can talk for days about what they feel, think, want, etc., but one thing they cannot do, and you should not allow, is for them to tell you what you feel, think, want, know, etc.
Were they there the night you cried when you found out a loved one died? Were they sitting in your heart when you had your first heartbreak? Were they there when you turned to your lover in bed and told them you loved them? Did they pray with you in church when you tried to see if God was listening? Did they see the world through your eyes when you first stumbled in life? If they weren’t there, and just so you know, nobody could ever be there in your shoes at any point in your life, then how the hell do they get to comment on a story that is not their own?
When speaking the stories of others one can add on, perhaps, their perspective on what they saw or what they heard or what they have been told, but other than that, they can never really speak that story in a way that is totally honest for the person who lived it. But some people never got this memo. They were never told, by a voice that has the power to tell, that in life the only things that are really any of their business are those things they experienced themselves and pretty much, not much else. Now you can have a strong opinion about things, so strong that you are willing to do something about the things you have strong opinions on, but don’t get it twisted, having an opinion on a thing is not the same as living a thing.
And the funny thing is that the people who usually have the strongest opinion on a matter are, many times, the ones who will do the least about that thing they claim to know so much about. Those people say shit like, “Oh, I think that they should do this or that in this way or that….” Then you ask them what they are doing about the thing they have such a strong opinion about and they turn up their nose at you and say a lot of shit that translates to “Well, I really don’t care enough to do shit about shit so why they hell are you pressing me about this…”
This is all important to remember, because most people seem to think they have a right to tell other people what their story is all about and what it is not about and therefore, to tell them what they should do or not do in that same story. They tell them that what they experienced is about this or that but not about what they, the people, who experienced it, feel it is really about. Now ain’t that some shit. Telling a person what a thing that happened to them, that did not involve you, because you were not there to experience that thing the same way that person experienced it, what that thing is and is not about. I mean, really, ain’t that some shit.
When I was a kid, I remember a friend telling me as we entered a toy store that I didn’t need to worry about the store owner following me around, because it wasn’t that kind of a store. I thought it funny, at the time, that they would say that, because from what I could see growing up in our neighborhood, I was the only one ever followed around in stores. Did he know what it meant to be followed around? Had he experienced alongside me the sick feeling I felt in my gut every time all eyes turned to me when we went shopping? And since I know that my white friends never experienced any of that, then how could he tell me not to worry.
So hold on to your story and claim it, all of it, even the parts that make you uncomfortable, or maybe, especially the parts of your story that make you uncomfortable. Do this now! Don’t wait til tomorrow. Claim all of it. Because if you don’t claim your story, someone else will. And when others are more comfortable telling your story than you are, then in a way, you lose your power to get it back. This is not to say, you can’t reclaim it, but just to say it’s harder than just owning it from the get go.
And even if someone else is not telling your story for you, just by not really owning your story, then in a way, it can own you. It can drive your life in a way that holds you in fear or sadness or bitterness or loss. If you were touched as a child, in a way no child should ever be touched, and you never find a way to face that story head on, then that story will eat away at you over the years, poisoning your body with a pain you may want to let go of, but that has no intention, whatsoever, of letting go of you. This does not mean you need to tell the world, unless you want to, but it does mean, at some point, when you are ready, you have to tell yourself that this is as much a part of your story as everything else you experienced in your life.
Of course, we can’t stop people from trying to tell us what we experienced, but we can make our voices so loud and so powerful and so true about what we have lived, that our voice can not only drown out all those other voices, but it can also drown out the power of the story to claim you as it’s own.
We need to say to the story, “Don’t think that because I was beaten as a child, neglected, abandoned, molested, and generally fucked over somehow, that this means, that this story completely defines me. Don’t think that because I was followed in stores because of the color of my skin that I am going to forever live my life as that young man whose stomach used to turn every time he entered a store. I am no longer that boy. Same way you are no longer that person who experienced all those stories from your past. We are more, far, far more than all those experiences we had before today. This piece of sadness is a part of me but I am not a part of it, and in the same way that life is far more than it’s parts, so am I.”
Because, we must never forget, that if we don’t own our stories, then, and I am so sorry to be so blunt about this, but it is what it is, then your story will own you.
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