Source Material: Why Origins Matter
Tell me the story of your childhood. The story of your first love. Of your first love lost. Tell me your origin story.
Last week, I was spending time with a childhood friend, a person who has known me from adolescence to adulthood. She knows all of my irrational fears and embarrassing dating stories. She knows where the bodies are buried. She was in town visiting, and we went out to dinner with some friends who I had met later in my life. They’ve only ever known me in my full, grown-ass lady glory. We were talking about high school, what it was like, who we were and how we’ve changed. I was explaining how I had perceived myself and my high school experience. Sharing an origin story, of sorts. My friend interrupted, calling me out and telling my friends a whole different version of myself. Her version was much more generous and loving than the one I had shared. I wasn’t being intentionally self-deprecating; I was being truthful. So was she. Like most subjective truth, I imagine, the reality was somewhere in the middle.
The stories we tell about ourselves matter. Our origins—who loved us (and who didn’t), who changed us, how we perceived ourselves, how we remember being wounded, and the scars that we still harbor—they matter. Story after story gets stacked, one on top of the other, hardening into layers and forming our identity and sense of self-worth. In your family, are you the smart one? The least favorite child? The angry one? The truth teller? The one who is asked to give too much? Who decided, and when? Do you settle comfortably into those stories, or do they chafe?
We have the power to reframe our stories. We can’t change the past, but we can change the trajectory that the stories we tell have on our future. First, an excavation is in order. I can use my friend’s retelling of my story as an opportunity to see myself differently. I can see that my love of forming community, my desire to make others feel welcome and loved as something that began even in my teenage years. It allows me to feel the roots of my best self sink deeper into the earth, into better soil. But first, I have to loosen the grip that I have on the story I was telling. I have to peel away the unnecessary, the unnerving, the untruthful. Sometimes, this can be done around the table with friends. Sometimes, it can be done in intentional reflection. Sometimes, it’s done with the help of a great therapist. Source material matters to me, because it’s how I enter into my own life. It’s a way to see myself, my impact, and my responsibility to the world. We can only start where we are, with what we have. What we do after that, is where the real work begins.
What is your source material?
- What story holds you fast? Write that story down, or tell it to a friend.
- How does that story inform your current personal and/or spiritual landscape?
- How does that story inform the story you tell about yourself now?
- Is that story true? Rooted in truth?
- Who has the power in the stories you tell about yourself? Who should?
- Take a moment, and reframe that story. What would it look like to tell it differently?