The stories we tell: on living life, and owning it

This morning I started reading a book of personal essays by Chloe Caldwell called Legs Get Led Astray.  It’s really good, and has me thinking about how I should try my hand at creative nonfiction.

A week ago, my friend Danielle told me that I have good stories to tell.  I guess we seldom think of our life experiences as important or significant until someone tells us that they’re cool or worth sharing.This is probably because when we tell stories, we can and do leave out a lot of mundane details: The long stretches of highway, the rain.  You can’t edit shit out in real life, which I think mutes the fun parts, and keeps us from believing that we’ve ever done anything interesting.

Danielle particularly liked the story of how I conquered my driving phobia one day last summer by meeting my friend Amber (who, at the time, I’d only known via Twitter) at a Hertz on a busy highway at 4:00 in the morning, and driving her to the Detroit Metro airport.

A month or so later, Amber (whose Twitter handle, for the record, is @rare_basement; she’s got quite the following) was in California, pestering Craig Ferguson endlessly via Twitter to put her on his show.  Which, miraculously, he did.

So, at home in Michigan, I turned on the TV and said to my mother, “You know how I disappeared in the middle of the night that one day in August and stumbled in, stone sober at 6 in the morning?  I met that girl at the Hertz on Hall Road at 4 a.m. and drove her to the airport.  And now she’s on TV.”

I guess that could be a good story, if I told it right.

Other things I could write about:

  • That one time I slept with a professor from Ohio (She’s eleven years my senior, is in the middle of a divorce, has a daughter who’s in middle school, and crossed state lines to be with me.)
  • Why I hated Interlochen (It’s weird to me that a place that’s supposed to foster creativity has so many RULES.  Writers are not supposed to go to bed at sundown, or keep their bathroom clean.)
  • Why I initially thought that Mitt Romney had been elected President of the United States (Because what else are you supposed to think when you wake up in a bathtub with a mean whiskey hangover the morning after the election?)

Not to mention this organic farm thing.  Oh, you know.  I flew across the country and stayed with a friend I met on the Internet for a few days before heading north to live in a tent and work on a farm for a while.  How many people can say that they’ve done something like that, you know?  But it’s hard for me to focus on the glamour that others see when I tell them about it because I’m living it minute-by-minute.  The loneliness.  The sound of rain against my tent at 3 a.m.  Those things dull the experience for me a bit.

So, I don’t know.  Writing and sharing have always been really important parts of my identity. And yet it took a nineteen-year-old college freshman (who I felt like I was corrupting every time I opened my mouth, to be honest) to be like, “Wow, you do the coolest stuff!”

I have two Twitter accounts.  One has my real name on it and I post mostly boring, mundane shit that no one cares about, with the occasional joke to prove that I have a personality.  The other one does not have my full name on it, and the tweets are protected from the public.  This morning I posted stories about how

  • I almost got kicked out of a bar in Bay City, Michigan once (I’m like the least threatening-looking person in the world, so this is an interesting story)
  • I was forced to buy a vibrator from my ex-girlfriend once after my evangelical grandmother threw mine away in protest of my sinful, sinful ways
  • I have a track record for projectile vomiting all over people I have really big crushes on

TMI?  Yes.  That’s why I (generally) keep that shit under lock and key.

But I keep it, which I think is important.  The world is full of enough bad stuff.  I don’t want future generations to think that we were a bunch of drones.


About Amelia

feminist, seafood enthusiast, bookworm, blogworm
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