During my class’s first meetup, Seamus Harte, our storytelling instructor from Stanford’s d.school, said something rather profound about storytelling:
“Nothing makes sense. We make sense of things. That’s storytelling.”
“What will you do next?”
As a college senior, I get this question a lot, but it seems to be lurking around every corner now that graduation is a month away. My chameleon answers make me feel like a fraud.
The confusion and frustration and fear this question evokes is centered around this fact: I don’t know what I’m doing.
How do I tell a story I haven’t lived, heard, or read? I’m trying my hardest to define and predict the future. I’m trying to understand and tell my story without having lived it. The best I’ve been able to do is follow my intuition and the advice of those who have gone through experiences I’m interested in pursuing.
That’s the beauty and the mess of designing a year for myself. No one has ever lived exactly what I’m about to go through. There’s not a job description or syllabus to follow. There are very few certainties. There are mostly questions and hypothetical answers.
I’ve asked questions, gotten advice. I have been hoping the advice might morph into answers that establish a clear outline for the story I’m about to live—quelling the fiery frustration, fear, and confusion I feel. Instead, I’m left with pieces I have to make sense of for myself.
I’ve thought of this as gathering puzzle pieces that I need to put together to understand, but I’m starting to equate the process to something more like creating a stained glass window. People hand me these wonderful, beautiful insights and experiences, but then I have to chip away at them to get at what is useful for myself. I have to put these jagged and mismatched pieces together to create something that makes sense for me.
A friend commented on this process over coffee last week, saying that the lack of certainty and stability seemed unnerving. It is. This year more accurately represents what life is like. Nothing is certain, we can hardly plan for what will happen. In embracing the freedom of possibility, I give up the stability of certainty. This year is about learning to adapt, create stability in myself, and build my own opportunities. It’s writing my own story instead of reading someone else’s.