The Stories of our Lives

As I sit in thought trying to conjure up story ideas, naturally, I tend to resort to my own life experiences. I am also resorting to the cliche ideas centered around life, thinking of moments in my life where I had the most profound epiphanies. When I think of these moments I mold to them the question of “when does hardship become triumph” or “when does adversity become a source of hidden beauty”. I’m not even quite sure if that’s how I would phrase my story ideas, but that’s the best I can come up with at this late hour.

One such story is the tale of my freshman year at college. I had attended Rutgers University in New Jersey my entire freshmen year. I remember going there and just being in complete shock. Nearly 50,00 kids and not a single one I knew, living on the international floor with a roommate from China in the basement of my dorm building- a weeping sense of loneliness and a loud solitude ended up enwrapping me like a blanket, and I snuggled right up into it. As time persisted, I learned how to put myself out there. I really had no choice though, it was nearly a matter of survival. Thank god I did. There’s a whole lot more that I can add to this story, but long story short, I made a lot of meaningful friendships during this process. Friendships that still persist to this day believe it or not. Most importantly, I learned alot about myself along the way (I know this is not exactly the most desired phrase for a story, but again, I can add to it). Having almost transferred back here to UVM after the first semester, I’ll be forever grateful towards my mother for pushing me to ride out the full year. I guess one’s comfort zone can be ones worst kryptonite.

The next story is a bit more profound and more recent. It occurred the very first week of school during the first semester this year. It was a Friday, the first Friday back in school, so everyone was home. Naturally, my friend and I were excited to go out.

There were a few situations that happened earlier that day and during that night that foreshadowed the darkness that was to erupt in the night’s climax at around 3am. Essentially, my friend and I met up with a kid we sort of knew while at Rasputin’s. He invited us over to his place to smoke once the bar closed, all we had to do was buy rolling papers. Being the Cheech and Chong we are, it was a no brainer. Fuck yeah we’ll buy papers.

When we got to the house I could sense the hostility that had been fumigating in the air, but god knows for how long. Eventually, for reasons I’m not quite sure of, fighting broke out amongst everyone that was there. My friend and I knew none of the kids so we had no reason to participate in the fighting. Instead, which was also a mistake, we tried to break it up. I remember grabbing a hold of one of the instigators, who happened to be the kid that invited us over, and shoving him on his bed telling him that the fighting needed to stop. As I walked into the hall way my friend was getting jumped. I ran over to help him, but by the time I got there he had stood up and was stumbling. As he was stumbling by the top of the stairs I watched him get sucker punched. He flew down the stairs, not even tumbling, and smashed his head wide open against the wall at the bottom of the stairway. I can go into bitter detail, but I’ll just say that there are things in life that you will never unfeel or unsee. This is one of those moments for me.

For now I’ll just say this: not only is life short, but life also owes you nothing. No matter who you are, how old you are, what you’ve done, what you haven’t done, what you want to do; life owes you nothing. But, maybe you owe something to life. I just can’t say what that is quite yet.  

Telling a Story

Radio is a thing of the past. Sitting around the radio and listening to talk shows used to be the main source of entertainment. Now, with the visual stimulation of the television, internet and new forms of media, radio talk shows have nearly deceased. But, the power of storytelling has not. Neither has the idea of listening to these stories without the added visual stimulation. The modern day radio talk shows have taken a new form- the podcast. Podcasts have a lot of pressure on them. They need to not only compete with each other, but also compete with all the more engaging forms of entertainment as well. So how does one produce a successful podcast?

Well, the answer mainly resides in good story telling. Storytelling that keeps the listener hooked. Hooked and intrigued enough to resist going on instagram, FaceBook, or going to listen to that new song they just heard and can’t get enough of. So, what does good storytelling entail? For starters, its character driven. The story follows an individual who goes through a chain of events and comes out at the end changed in one way or another.

Within the two podcasts I listened to, both from Invisibilia, the stories centered around one individual. In one, the individual is living their dream life, and then one day it all comes crumbling down when she wakes up in the hospital unable to speak. The story starts out blissful, reminiscing on childhood memories and leading up to a dream life, but then suddenly it shatters. This dichotomy creates the tension and suspense needed for a good story. It also creates a strong sense of empathy from the listener. This was further reiterated through the usage of real recordings of the individual slowly but surely trying to regain their ability to speak. The story also used symbolism. The speaker reminisced on a prayer that she used to practice with her father as a kid, this prayer was then the tool she used to try to speak again. It instills in the listener a symbol of hope and importance of family.

The second podcast I listened to was centered around an individual who hated talking on the phone. And probably like most people, he especially hated it with his own mother. In turn, he wouldn’t answer her calls leaving her no option but to leave voicemails. The turn in the story happens when his mother becomes very ill with cancer; eventually losing her life to it. He realized that the most special thing he had from his mother were those voicemails. Those annoying unnecessary wordy voicemails from a caring mother. This podcast was not only emotionally intriguing, but it was relatable and eye opening. Essentially the listener is left with the cliche realization that “you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone”.

I guess that lesson was similar in both the podcasts when I think about it. The things we take for granted are the most noticeable when gone. Whether it’s just having the ability to talk, or having a caring mother annoy you with their phone calls.