How to write a narrative. I don’t know where to begin. Are there even “how to” books on this? Is there someone, anyone I can speak to, to help me craft the story of my life? How does one even highlight the “highlights” of her life when the journey is not complete? When there is such a long way to go? When the “unknowns” are greater than the “knowns?”
Maybe I can turn to my resume for ideas. After all, I wrote it myself, did all those things myself, and it says all about myselfâ€¦right? “Research Assistant, Psychotherapy Lab.” “Violinist and (Former) Concertmistress, Smith College Orchestra.” What about the things it doesn’t say about me? Things for which I don’t get recommendations and awards. Things I am and not things I do. Things that make me… me.
Well… what are the things that make me “me,” when so many of my interactions with other people have influenced the way I judge my experiences, and admittedly, myself? The line is blurred between my accomplishments (and challenges — can’t forget those) that have been guided by others, and those I can solely call my own. But what is my own? How can I attribute my feats (and de-feats) to just me? I wouldn’t continue to pursue music without the encouragement and support of dedicated teachers. I wouldn’t have the internships had it not been for the recommendations from past supervisors, and the belief of current supervisors in me to perform my best. I wouldn’t have the desire to study psychology had it not been for the good and bad of friends, foes, and fathers gone by. And I wouldn’t be one semester away from surviving Smith — knock on wood — if it hadn’t been for the love and generosity of my parents, of course, but also for my reliable, unconditionally accepting friends (all two of them). Whether or not all of this makes me passive for following the paths founded for me by others… well, let’s just say my strengths would not be without my weaknesses.
What I am by nurture — almost synonymous with what is on my resume — perhaps does not reflect who I am by nature. Or does it? “Attentive to detail when it comes to reviewing data or observing clients,” my cover letter reads. Is this as much my nature as is, say, my aversion to being in the spotlight? My tendency to agree in order to avoid conflict? Or how about my empathy towards others, my willingness to lend an ear, or two? What about my inevitability to over-analyze, getting lost in my internal monologues, yet my soft spot for taking to heart the wisdom of those closest to me? And the list goes on. Of course, you’ll never see any of these qualities on a resume unless I’m applying for the unrelenting, unpaid job of Being My Harshest Critic, which I’m certain I would get.
But I still don’t know. Is it nature, or is it nurture? Suddenly my psychology textbooks and lectures on the subject do not prove useful in solving the greatest question of my life: How much of who I am is defined by what I do and the people who have been with me along the way?
Truth is, wherever you go, you carry a little bit of everything, and everyone, that came before you. And all of those things make you YOU. A better you, with room to grow. Your mom asking you what you grades you got, and you wishing she asked, “How are you?” That guy who put you on a point system. That drink you spit in to get back at him. Truth is, you thrive from human connections, even the bad. And this does NOT make you weak. Truth is, you can’t be defined by a resume, because you never truly have enough room to say all you want to say. But there is more that is said in what isn’t said, for what propels narratives are your questions, not your answers. This is my narrative, and this is just the beginning.