seeking the stories

 

In junior high one time, I had the first party I can recall hosting.

I don’t remember many details

But I remember that I was so excited to invite all my Best Friends

I don’t remember who all attended

What I do remember – was that it went terribly

Cliques

Maybe even fights

Definitely tension

In high school, then, every so often (like every year or two, maybe every six months at most- not that often). I would take a moment to try to come up with a word that I thought best described the thing I liked about all my favorite people; maybe not the most in each person- but the factor that all of them had in common.

 

Because it seemed strange to me, an unexpected thing- that if I liked all those people in junior high so much, that they did not like one another, too. I had realized I could not think of one word that could be used to describe – all of them.

 

The first time I did this successfully, the first time I was able to think of something all my favorite people had in common with one another-was in early high school

After I had begun the process of intentionally changing my identity group

If I am remembering correctly, that first word was ‘intelligent.’

In junior high, I told my parents at one point (they’ve since told me this; I do not remember doing this, nor telling them about it) that I was trying to use smaller words

Because the other kids either didn’t understand what I was saying, or would make fun of me for using bigger ones

So then, I had tried to be less intelligent, in order to fit in.

Ultimately, I decided I did not want to fit in with the popular kids, after all.

And my best friend during this time was probably the biggest factor in this, honestly.

She was always so…free. So….herself.

I wanted so much to be like her.

And she was always so smart.

So, I tried becoming smart. Well, it was more like I started befriending people who were smart. I didn’t think of myself as smart, at all – not for quite some time after that point in my life. Like, years.

I had this thing I would do, back then, that was not always successful (though I use that word with some hesitation, because even when it was, it still wasn’t- in that it never actually filled the hole in my soul I was unaware that I had even been trying to fill)

I would pick out the guy that I thought best exemplified the thing I most admired in Others.

And try to get him to like me.

That, I think, was an attempt to take a short cut, though it wasn’t until today I put it into words like that in my mind.

To take intelligence as an example

Another friend of mine reminded me of this the other day- I had forgotten

But she and I were calculated enough, back in freshman year of high school

To actually talk about which one of us should “get” this classmate of ours, who was really smart

Holy shit, am I embarrassed to share that now!

That is not a Nice way to be a human, I believe now

But I wasn’t trying to be nice, then

I thought it was best to be smart, because all the people I admired most had that, and that alone, or so I thought-as the connection between them.

And that classmate was smart

So I think on some level, I thought if I could get this super intelligent person to like me, I could somehow gain Worth, as a human being, by proxy

That backfired, of course, and pretty explosively.

But that is another channel.

The next time I tried thinking about what all my favorite people had in common with one another, a year or two later, to my surprise – I realized it was not intelligence, anymore

 

I think the word might have been ‘liberal’

But if it was, that was not even accurate

Because when I think back to that time, I definitely had some friends I thought highly of that did not fit in that categorization.

I just wanted it to be true, because I didn’t like the way some conservatives had made me feel, and I thought therefore that I did not like conservatives, as a general statement, and that therefore I must like liberals.

This is also edging into a whole other channels’ worth of discussion, but-

Eventually, as I kept repeating that process, of trying to identify what connected all my favorite people, that one word kept evolving

From ‘liberal’ to ‘awake’ to ‘considerate’ to ‘compassionate,’ or something like that!

 

And, each time it did, my favorite people became less groups of such polar opposites, as they were in junior high

Until eventually, I was confident that I could get any number of my favorite people together, who had never met each other- and they would not hate each other

But would actually frequently become friends themselves!

 

Concurrently, perhaps as a direct result of this habit I’d sort of begun as a whim (before I thought about my brain using that word as a descriptor) – I began identifying the things that I liked most in life experiences, sort of.

I’ll have to think about this more; it’s been over a decade since I’ve revisited the early stages of this thought.

 

Honestly, I don’t think I remember, right now

But I know what it became, after a couple initial transformations in thought.

Through this process and some particular experiences I had

One of which was that best friend of mine, later – in college, telling me a particular story, about herself and one of her past partners. She told me, once, about a time she and him had been riding a city bus in Santa Cruz, together.

 

It was a brutally hot day

And the bus ride was miserable!

But ever after, she told me –

They would say to one another, every so often:

“Hey! You remember that one time on the bus?? God, that was awful, wasn’t it?!”

And they bonded over it

And in so doing

This event that had seemed All Bad, at the time

Became an integral part of them growing closer to one another

And therefore not just Not Bad

But actually – really good

That story has always stuck with me

And totally transformed my perception of experience, in a broad manner

I stopped seeing the value in a given life experience as so concrete, so black and white and permanent

 

And, somewhere along the way, I decided that I would begin rating the value of my own experiences in terms of how good of a story it later made

Or would later make

 

I can think of way too many pretty funny examples of how this has shaped my life to give them all here, right now

But perhaps now that I’ve made this channel, I will start to later

Actually. I think I remember the event that triggered this awareness in me, of stories being the baseline by which I rated my experiences and how worthwhile they were (and later, as a result and for a period of time- how I rated how I thought of other people, but again, I’ll save that for later)

 

It was before my friend had told me about the bus, so I must have learned the black and white thing after I had already started seeking out the stories in life

 

My first job was as a commercial salmon seiner, in Alaska, when I was 17.

One of my best friends in high school, who is not a member of this server at the moment – her dad owned a seiner.

She wanted a friend to go with her

So we went up, and I lived and worked on the boat with her, just after junior year of high school ended, and returned to CA just before senior year began.

 

That whole thing is definitely worth its own channel

 

But there was this girl I met up there

Oh! This was one of the evolutionary stages of my ‘friend words,’ that I’d forgotten about

I’m pretty sure that somewhere around this time, the word was ‘interesting’

Anyway

This girl, I can’t even remember her name now

 

Did not seem Interesting

She was…nice

And I had discarded Nice as the thing that made people worthwhile in my mind, as humans, a while before that point, and therefore dismissed her

Honestly, I did more than that

I think I looked down on her, some

I was not mean to her (that I was aware of)

But she was….a little mousey, maybe

 

And I was so terrified, I think, of seeing the Mouse in me

That I looked down on the Mouse in others

Anyway

Soft spoken

Sweet

Quiet

“Yuck!” I thought

“How….boring.”

One night, we docked up with the boat she worked on with her boyfriend

She was in her early twenties, then, if I remember correctly

And as we were sitting down for dinner

She starting telling the story of their relationship, just as a natural progression of the conversation

 

Which was actually a story about her life

 

And shocked me to my core, for how suddenly and deeply it transformed my perception of people, in a broader sense

When she was fourteen, she’d snuck out to go to a party with her boyfriend

She’d been fighting with her parents about him. They did not want her seeing him

So, this one night, she snuck out

And forgot her flipflops

 

But her parents had been crafty

And had laid a trap

They’d put a bear skin rug on the top bunk of her bed, head facing the door

 

Which she opened, then SCREAMED

Loudly enough she woke her parents, but she didn’t know this at the time

She just grabbed her shoes, and ran, back out to her boyfriend, who had been waiting in his car out front

 

When he brought her back to her house, sometime in the early morning hours-

Her belongings were neatly piled on the lawn

With signed emancipation papers sitting atop

 

And that was the proverbial it for that chapter of her life

She began, at fourteen fucking years old, living in her boyfriend’s car

Working, during some summers, on fishing boats

She had since been to Africa, working on a merchant ship

And Europe

Where she stayed, for a while, and worked as a fucking horse jockey

She was like 5 foot nothing, very petite

 

And within this mouse was a fucking hero

 

She had done so many things that I only wished I had the courage, the strength to do

 

And she had done it all and was still –

nice!

 

I was shocked!

 

And I learned

that really interesting people are sometimes hidden within people that didn’t seem so at first glance, to me

 

Since it was her Story that had affected this shift in perception,

 

I started seeking out Stories

And, whether it was then, or later- I eventually landed on

 

surprise

As being the Salient Thing in stories that I liked.

I have never met a single person that I feel like I was not able to niggle a Surprising Story out of, if I tried hard enough

brooke

I spent three years living on the street in Los Angeles. I came out of that, changed. This is my story.

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