The Trouble with Stories


Alright, so this is the whole other blog post.

I get overly fixated on narrative. I have no idea how long that has been the case. I stayed up really late finishing books as a kid. When other kids got in trouble for not putting their laundry away, not emptying the dishwasher, ignoring their parents, I got in trouble for those things too but it was usually because I hadn’t heard the instructions. When I read, I stop seeing words and start seeing images. My brain makes a picture and suddenly, that’s where I live.

When the third Harry Potter book came out, I came home, locked my door for three hours, and when I came out I became the only kid I knew to get in trouble for reading. In my youth, I thirsted for adventure, for high stakes, for revolution. I couldn’t find it in the world. I’ve been too lucky and too complacent. But I’ve always found what I needed in stories – trust, honor, sacrifice, romance with both sized Rs.

That said, stories, narrative didn’t always keep me awake. But my first year of college, I fell in love with Veronica Mars, a show about a high school private detective trying to solve the mystery of her best friend’s murder. I was lonely and uncertain. I felt a little like I had failed for the first time in my life, which, for those of you who know where I went to college, is silly. But that’s how I felt.

I watched all of Veronica Mars in a week and a half over winter break. That’s approximately 66 episodes of television in about 10 days. The show had been canceled rather abruptly less than a year before, and it ends on a cliffhanger. For weeks after I saw the last episode, I lay awake in bed trying to write an ending that would satisfy me, that would fill in the holes that I thought the show itself was going to fill.

A day of reading Avengers fanfic gave me fever dreams the like the ones I described in my last post. I chose my major based on the West Wing. The best thing on my resume right now (besides my Masters degree – shout out to a major in reading) is the Harry Potter Alliance, an organization dedicated to engaging fans in activism using parallels from the series. Madeleine L’Engle made me feel less alone. Give me ten minutes with a sports game and a friend who is invested and the battle parallels become even clearer.

I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. It’s probably neither. We all have flaws. I’m sure many future blog posts will be dedicated to mine. Some people think my investment in narrative keeps me from engaging in my actual life. That may be true. For so many others, it’s a familiar experience to find what you need in fiction. Real life, or whatever you call it, doesn’t have an arc. If it has a purpose, that purpose is not made clear to us. But I find so much of what matters to me in the sharing and telling and creating of stories. I find meaning and power and glory in narrative. And I find comfort there too.

Perhaps it’s a little sadistic. But I hope one day a story I’ve told keeps someone else awake all night too.

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