WHY STORIES MATTER
I am going to cut to the chase and give you three examples of why stories are so important to us as human beings. And they all have one thing in common: love.
I want you to imagine a time in your life when you had a crush on someone. Maybe you knew them well, maybe you stood in line with them every morning while getting coffee, maybe they were unattainable, married, and out of reach. Your thoughts of this crush were not filled only with all of their attractive qualities, but you would create a scenario in your mind of how your relationship with that might start. Maybe he offered to buy your coffee and the two of you were late to work because you couldn’t stop talking and had such an amazing rapport with each other. Maybe you would share a first kiss leaning over your textbooks studying for the big final. Or maybe, she would realize that her marriage was futile, and that she couldn’t fight what was clearly true love right in front of her. A visceral reaction was reflected in you from the stories you were telling yourself. It is the story of what could be.
Crushes often lead to bigger things like marriage. I have shot weddings for over a decade now, and there was a trend that went on, and still persists, in post production of wedding photos. Entire businesses were created to give us photographers the ability make photos look vintage. The shades and tones of how a color image fades over time, were matched with precision, and those recipes for “vintage” quality editing could be obtained, for a price. Brides started asking for it. I realized that my clients were asking that I make their photos look like heirlooms even before I had taken the images. My brides were already seeing their wedding photos as decades old, as proof that their love story had lasted a lifetime. The story these brides are telling themselves, is the story of what will be.
And with love, often comes heartbreak. The hardest part of a divorce, for many, isn’t the splitting of assets, the child support, or the decree. The hardest part is letting go of the story. We are going to have kids, travel to Peru, buy a motorhome, and see each other into old age. When a breakup happens, there is a void where that story once lived, and that is terrifying to many people. What next? The most heartbreaking story is the story of what could have been.
Of course, there is more to life (and storytelling) than love, but sometimes the stories that affect us the most are the ones that we tell ourselves. We have a human need to fill in information that is lacking, and to make sense of it by telling a narrative. Just try and let yourself be comfortable with the “unknown” when it pertains to your career, health, or love. It is hard to do, and humans don’t like not knowing.
Stories are important because they can make the impersonal feel intimate. Narratives are important because they help us to make sense of our place in the world. Ask yourself, what stories you tell yourself and how you would exist without them.