I am an ordinary girl. I grew up in a typical suburban house with two brothers, a mom and a dad, a dog and a few hamsters. I went to college, got a job and got married. Now I’m the one paying the mortgage on a typical suburban house with two kids and a dog of my own. It sounds boring and mundane, yet there are things in my life that have shaped me in ways I didn’t expect. I’m an ordinary girl, but even an ordinary girl has a story to share.
My story is this: I was a typical American college girl who met and fell for an attractive, charismatic med student during my senior year at Michigan State. The med student turned out to be a pathological liar, thief and felon who was arrested on my parents’ picturesque front porch in Colorado. I went from being a girl that put puffy paint on dorm room picture frames to a girl that received letters and calls from the county jail. It wasn’t fun. It rocked my world, it impacted my relationship with my friends and family, shaped the way I’d approach every future romantic relationship and in short, changed the trajectory of my life.
My experience with a con artist was a tidal wave in my life when it happened, and for a few years afterward I had some big swells I had to face and get through. Today there are still ripples from the experience that sometimes creep up. Mostly, I see the experience as a blip in my past that has made me part of who I am today, but in no way does it define me.
I’m always hesitant to share this story with people. I feel like it brands me, or taints me in some way. Whenever I do share the story, though, a surprising thing happens. People share their stories, too! People I have met have been through some amazing things. I’ve heard stories of illnesses that have been overcome, loved ones that have been lost, battles with addiction and mental illness and tragedies that still leave individuals reeling. I’ve heard what it’s like to grow up on a farm and what it’s like to have a psychic as a parent. And oh goodness, have I heard my share of stories about loony exes and stalkers!
Some stories are grander and more meaningful than mine, to the extent that I’m embarrassed that I ever thought I had a story to tell at all. All these stories, big and small, tell the story of our collective existence on this planet. Taken separately, one story may not be much. Put together, they make an amazing tapestry out of our lives. They show how we are connected. They illustrate how we each have worth.
Dating a con artist is a tale from my life, but I have so many more stories to share. I’ve also had a chance to ride a donkey up a cliff in Santorini, Greece. I’ve seen central Michigan from a hot-air balloon. I have won a poker tournament in Vegas, honeymooned in Cancun and hiked the breath-taking trails of Colorado. I’ve said, “I do!” in front of my friends and family, and I’ve held my crying babies in the wee hours of the night. I’ve thrown up my hands in frustration at life and cried myself to sleep, and I’ve laughed so hard that I’ve had stomach aches for days. I’ve lived.
When I first decided I wanted to write a blog, my initial exhilaration at the idea was thwarted by a very simple doubt. “Who am I to write a blog? What do I have to say that’s special? What gives me the right to share my thoughts above any other person? Why would anyone want to listen to what I have to say?”
Well, I am an ordinary girl. Yet, I do have a voice. I do have things to say, and those things are important. They may not be earth shattering, and they may not bring about world peace or end gun violence in America, but that doesn’t diminish their worth. One doesn’t have to work at the White House or take in refugees in order for their life to matter. The important work is vital to our world, but it shouldn’t diminish the so-called mundane work that most of us do every day. The mundane matters most, day in and day out. There is value in making dinner for our families, holding the door for a coworker and smiling at the grocery store cashier. There is value in the big stuff, too, but the little moments are worth living for.
Most of us get out of bed every morning, brush our teeth, pour some coffee or tea and get on with our day. We work, we play, we laugh and cry, and we touch the world in remarkable and commonplace ways. Our stories have worth.
We each have a story that is good enough to tell.
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I love this! Each year at the school where I work, we have a theme for family groups (groups of ~15 representing all grades and various staff positions). This year’s theme is ‘stories’. We are discovering how our stories – both elaborate and mundane – are so important in building community, developing empathy and learning more about ourselves. Like you said, everybody has a story and even the ones about grocery store trips and leisurely days are just as valuable as the adventurous ones – who we are, where we’ve come from, and things that have shaped the course of our lives. I think the most important of these is that stories help us to build real connections.
That’s really funny that the theme of the year is “stories!” I think it resonates with people. People are so interesting and fascinating, and most of the time we all hide behind our busy schedules and stress and what not, and it’s a shame to miss out on getting to form real connections. I’m so happy to hear your school is helping people bridge a gap and really connect with each other.