We all have a story that needs to be told. The stories that resonate most deeply, in fiction and in real life, are about the character journey. Our stories of resilience, of when we stumble and fall and pick ourselves up again, can shine a light for others. They are the difficult stories about how we negotiate the real turning points of life, of how loss, pain and hardship have made us grow.
I realised how much the world needs stories of resilience recently when I posted this photo as part of a photo challenge facilitated by the wise Susannah Conway. It resonated more than anything else I’d posted for an entire month in the secret Facebook group.
Every day we had a new prompt. Some made you pause and think long and hard, like this one:
I KNOW …
Here’s what I wrote in my journal:
I KNOW how to conjugate Italian verbs. I know how to tile and grout a bathroom. I know about postmodern philosophy. I know how to make a mean guacamole. I know the Sanskrit words for many yoga asanas. But what do I really know?
The most important things I KNOW, the insights that are worth sharing, are the things that life itself has taught me. Loss and grief have been my most treasured teachers. Meditation and writing have been my therapy.
I KNOW that after darkness comes light. I know that it’s the journey through the sinkholes of life that will make us grow. When I fell into the abyss of grief, I didn’t know that I would be resilient enough to find happiness again.
I KNOW that to find happiness, we have to accept that impermanence is the foundation of everything.
I KNOW that finding our resilience is a long and lonely journey, but it’s the most important one we will ever take. It will deeply transform us and teach us everything we know.
I KNOW that journaling and creative writing saved me from clinging to the bottom of the sinkhole. I KNOW that we have the tools to re-write our stories
Why had it resonated? Because it was the story that I needed to share. When we feel like we are drowning, someone commented, it helps to read stories by a fellow traveler who’s been at the bottom and has resurfaced.
There are many ways to get sucked under. Divorce, the death of someone close to us, a cancer diagnosis, menopause, depression, financial ruin, any one of life’s major turning point that knock the air out of us is also a chance to grow. We have a choice of framing and re-writing our personal narratives.
THE WORLD NEEDS STORIES OF RESILIENCE
That was the message I took away from the TEDx Badinh in Hanoi I attended over the Easter weekend this March. Not everybody gets the choices I and my fellow online seekers have. The stories of resilience shared by those who are born into the bottom of the abyss are even more remarkable.
Like so many Vietnamese streetkids, Vi Do migrated at age 15 from rural Vietnam to Hanoi to financially support his family. By day he worked as a shoeshine boy in the streets of Hanoi. By night he slept on an 8 metre high pillar on a construction site to escape the claws of paedophile gangs.
Vi Do told his story in a language that he learned in free classes after a chance encounter with the founder of Blue Dragon. Learning English was his ticket to freedom.
He found employment as a barman. It was a good life. He earned good money. He had opportunities to climb the career ladder. He got to see places. But it wasn’t enough. There was a fire burning in his belly. He needed to share what he knew.
He returned to Blue Dragon and became a crisis worker. He now runs a shelter and cares for children with deep trauma. He also works undercover in China on rescue missions to find trafficked children and to expose pedophile rings.
With a choked voice he talked of the former street kids whom he’s helped find the light. One now lives as an accountant in new Zealand, another is a programmer in Finland. There were many more, but I was no longer taking notes. I was holding back tears. I think the entire auditorium was choking. The applause was deafening. I half expected everybody to rise for a standing ovation.
Vi Do is a beacon of light to kids who live where he lived more than 10 years ago. His true vocation was not to work in hospitality, but to return to the streets and to share everything he knows about the journey from vulnerability to resilience.
The audience was hungry to hear his story of resilience and all the other stories that were shared at the TEDxBadinh. Just as my little tribe of truth seekers had wanted to hear my message of resilience during the #AprilLove photo challenge.
We all have a story we need to tell. What’s yours?
Many of us have the urge to tell our stories. Whether we share our stories standing on that red circle of carpet at a TED conference, in the pages of a published memoir or in the pages of our journals is not important. What’s important is to get started, to get the story out, for there is no greater burden than an untold story.
But for many of us that is the first hurdle. How do you craft the story of what you know to be true, the story of what has deeply transformed you? Ask yourself, what is the core of your story?