Living scrapbooks

I never feel so privileged as when someone shares their story with me. It’s the most precious thing any of us has. And for all the power of modern story telling (last night I demo’d some virtual reality tools that were powerful indeed), nothing quite has the same impact as sitting across from a real human, whose real voice is speaking with real emotion, and you can feel on your skin the difference between the words they’ve simply repeated over and over and the ones that still light their heart on fire.

What else I love is the role my own imagination gets to play. Especially when it’s disrupted with surprise.

Last night a beautiful human shared his story with me. I don’t know what I expected him to tell me, but I didn’t expect to hear that he’d ever been with a woman, or that he’d grown up in a tiny desert town, or that he still worked multiple jobs. His childhood was very unlike mine and yet, it was so easy for me to imagine what it was like. The whole time he spoke, it was nighttime in my imagination. Sparse with options like a desert landscape. A strange place to try to put together a sense of self in society, like sewing a doll from whatever scraps are lying around. Not so different from what I did, many miles and several whole climates away, what I feel I’m still doing.

I love the moments when we speak about such things in the concrete terms of which little pieces of life we chose. That’s where our stories come together, because as we speak, we keep choosing: This memory is for you. The best conversations are not pre-curated, but alive and unfolding in response to what the other person offers. Together we can forge worlds — they may still feel different to each of us, but at least we made them with one another’s gifts.

I don’t know why I’m writing this except that it feels worthy of capture. When my world was small, all I wanted to do was read about other people’s lives. Now that my world is so big, stuffed to the brim with beautiful generous souls who’ve gathered in Seattle from all corners of the world, all I want to do is write about them.

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