MemoirsEssays, Featured — By Stephen Watson on September 26, 2012 at 5:18 am
As a lover of books, bookstores, and libraries, I’ve noticed a recent trend. Everyone is writing memoirs! I mean everyone. Name a type of person and I bet you can find a memoir to fit. Memoirs used to be just a slightly more artistic way of saying autobiography, but that seems to have changed. Now memoirs are a way for people to tell a story, or a series of stories, that they have always wanted to tell and to tell it the way they have always wanted to tell it. Not necessarily factual, (although the person telling it will almost always claim it is completely factual) but just as interesting and maybe just a little bit more so.
I started to think about why so many people are writing memoirs. Why is this becoming so popular now? The reality is that people are not really living lives that are that much more interesting than they have been in the past, yet they are so much more popular now. Memoirs are about telling a story, and it seems like people have stories they really want to tell. The interesting part is that these stories are not that pretty, they aren’t the “found the girl, had the kids, lived in a castle for ever and ever” type of stories. Many of these stories are a bit rougher.
I have a story. I have a few stories, to be honest. I’m sure part of my fascination with memoirs lies in my own desire to tell my own stories, to put out there what I feel like I can’t tell others. The interesting thing about these “untellable” stories is that I really want them to be tellable. I want people to hear them. I need people to hear my story.
I’m going to take a guess and say that you probably aren’t that different from me. I’ll bet that you have some stories that you’ve never told anyone, or maybe just one person who you assume has forgotten it by now, but that you really want someone to hear.
We don’t do well with telling people our stories today. We tell them the boring stories about the weather, our jobs, the score of a football game, the latest book we’ve read. We tell lots of stories about other people. Maybe even a few stories that those other people would not like to know that we told. But we tend to not tell our own real stories. The stories that make us who we are. The stories that have set us on the paths we are on. The stories that guide what we do when it’s just us. Those are the kinds of stories we want to tell. At least I think so.
I recently read a story of a well known Christian author which fit the above description. He told the things he had never wanted to tell but that he knew he needed to tell. He told them he was older when the effects of his story had taken quite a beating on his health. But he still told it and his story was not pretty. It was hard and must have cut like a knife to write down, but he told it.
At the very back of this book, there was a section where some of his dearest and closest friends wrote letters, letters that they knew strangers like me would read, saying what this man meant to them. They said that they’ve known his story for many years and they’ve seen the ugliness of his story but that they loved him and that they saw the truth of his story. That they loved his story because it showed them more of him.
Our stories show others who we really are. That is what scares us about telling our stories, that when others hear our stories they’ll define us as what we always feared. We are worried of our stories giving others a clue to the real monster behind them, so instead, we live lives telling half-stories, boring stories, or no stories. But it’s beautiful what happens when we tell our stories, the real ones. More often than not, people start to love the person that they see because of the story. The things that confused them about us, suddenly make sense and become things that they can love. We become things that they, and we, can love.
When was the last time that you told your story? The real one? Maybe it’s time to take a risk and tell people you love the real story of you, the story that you see when you look in the mirror. When you give people a chance to hear your story, you are taking a risk. That’s always going to be true. But more than that, you are inviting beauty to enter your story and you are inviting others to love.
Invite others in. Give beauty and love a chance. Write a memoir, and tell it the way you’ve always wanted to tell it.