Storytelling club?? When Lauren, my roommate, first told me last semester that she was going, I was picturing her attending a creepy campfire seance of sorts. Like, people with beards dancing around with tambourines and whispering folk tales in hushed tones.
Thankfully, storytelling club turned out to be very un-creepy and hilarious. It is intended as an outlet for discussing interesting anecdotes, past misadventures, questions, relationships, challenges, etc. A girl told us about a time her friend ate wax thinking it was cheese. Someone else had a story about a botched childhood audition for a new television series on NBC. Lauren told everyone about the time her twin brother puked up a pineapple in the revolving doors of a hotel in China.
I shared something small: last night I asked a crazy regular customer to kindly leave Starbucks as he continued to rave about Satanic worship. Besides this though, I kept quiet for the majority of the meeting, preferring to observe the masterful way some of these people constructed their stories.
For example, a girl talked about her grandfather. Because he had passed away when she was in the eighth grade, she remembers him with gentle naivety. She remembers him as the man who worked in his garden, drank huge glasses of milk, went door to door meeting new neighbors, and battled one health challenge after the other. As her grandfather’s health deteriorated, she recalls his spirits rising. Eventually, after he had his leg amputated, he began to travel, tell more jokes, and live tenaciously. Her story ended on the overcast day of the funeral as his ashes were laid into the ground. The family wordlessly stood by the grave until a low grumble interrupted the silence: her sister’s stomach. Seeing a Friendly’s down the street, the family all shuffled in, ordered huge glasses of skim milk and moved onward.
I live tepidly. The more that was taken from this girl’s grandfather, the tighter he grasped his values and ambitions. Unless torn violently from assumptions of invincibility, we can become paralyzed by denial and the facade of time. If I cut off my leg, if I got cancer, if I lost a loved one – I would live differently. Certainly I do not wish these things upon myself, or anyone. However, suffering brings strength, and it is one of the few antidotes to complacency. I have been lucky in my life to have been saved the suffering of these painful realities. But have I?