The Origins of the Storyteller
My grandma always said I was the most adorable nightmare as kid. Not only did I have my own time-out desk in the corner of my 3rd grade class, but my teacher wrote home at least once a week saying that I was unable to stay in my seat and follow directions. I remember seeing a video of me at my Kindergarten graduation, dressed embarrassingly in a pastel pink dress and a big white graduation cap on my head. While some adult was talking, I, of course, wasn’t paying any attention at all. Obviously the boy next to me wasn’t either as he started swatting at the tassel hanging from my cap. In the video, I can hear my mom, “Oh my goodness… look at your daughter.”
The camera zooms in for a close up on me just as the boy swings his hand one last time tipping my cap off my head and onto the stage. Then you see sweet, six-year-old me slowly turn into a vicious warrior and with the form of Bruce Lee, I pull my hand back and let loose a slap so hard it left a handprint on the kid until fifth grade.
I love to tell that story. Since the first word uttered by man, we as a people have felt the need to preserve ideas and memories through stories. Without theses oral accounts of events, we would have no continuity, no culture transcending time and space. But why do we have this intuitive desire to tell stories? For some people (and we all know the kind of people I’m talking about) they speak for the sole purpose of hearing their own voice. Others just want their voice to be heard. I wanted my voice to matter. I wanted my story to matter.
That is why I studied journalism to begin with, and that is why I’m studying it now. No one in my family had ever graduated from college, and I had this desperate motivation to break the cycle. I wanted to be known as smart, methodical, charismatic, and self-disciplined. So I did everything many of you have done in your high school careers. Sacrificed countless hours of studying to the Almighty AP gods, signed up for every organization that would look good on a resume, and cringed at the mere thought of getting a B in calculus, which I did. And at some point during high school, I realized I wanted to use this new knowledge to do something I loved most. Tell stories—tell good stories, to be exact. I wanted to be a journalist and write profile articles for a big magazine where my story would matter.
Sitting in Dr. Boone’s Intro to news reporting class my freshman year of college, we had an assignment where we had to write our own obituary as if we’ve lived to be 100. I literally had to write my own story. Start to finish. Not only how I had lived up until that point, but also how I wanted it to play out the next 80 years or so. I remember sitting at the keyboard, mind blank and racing at the same time. That was the point in my life where I had this existential, what is my purpose, moment. I realized that yes I could tell a good story. And yes I loved tell it. But the story I had been telling for the past 18 years wasn’t really mine. My English teacher in high school said never let the truth get in the way of a good story. I realized that I wanted people to like my story, whether or not it was actually real. I was letting a good story get in the way of the truth. I used the words of others - to speak my story. I used the molds of other people – to shape myself. I used the expectations of my peers– to measure my own success.
Sitting at my computer in Dr. Boone’s class, I was determined to make the next 80-years of my life my own, unscripted and real, refusing to live it as anything less than extraordinary. Coincidentally, it was at that point that I decided I wanted to teach. I wanted to help kids not fall into the same trap in which I had fallen, one that causes so many teenagers to feel like the real story isn’t good enough. I wanted to teach them that their story, unedited by the world’s desperate need for acceptance, is one that matters.
My challenge to my students today is to refuse to live their lives as a secondary character in their own book. My book—the first 18 years of it at least—was a grey blending of fact and fiction with the sole purpose of making the Best Seller List. Now I crave knowledge for the sake of pioneering change in the world.
"If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room."
Master's of Arts in Journalism
University of North Texas
Expected Graduation - December 2017
Master's of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction
Angelo State University - 2011
Bachelor's of Arts in Journalism
Angelo State University - 2010