The best stories told are from our real lives
by STRONG THOUGHTS: Christy Armstrong, Banner Staff Writer
Mar 09, 2014 | 738 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If your life were to become a play or a novel, how would it read?

Would it be full of questions rather than answers? Would it be a romance or a comedy or a tragedy? How big would the cast of characters be?

I recently volunteered my time with a local community theater group called StageWorks of Cleveland. Having helped with stage management during the run of the group’s very first play in 2012, I decided it was time to begin wrangling theater props again.

The most recent play, which ended Saturday night, was “Almost, Maine” by John Cariani. The play itself consists of various vignettes, each depicting a scene related to love.

Some of the scenes depict the characters in humorous and happy situations; others depict the more awkward and depressing moments of the characters’ love lives.

Something the cast, the director and I said over and over in our conversations about the production was that many of us could find at least one scene to which we would relate.

During the intermission of an afternoon matinee, I stepped outside with the play’s director to get some fresh air, a welcome break from the areas beyond the heavy, velvet-like curtains that had become suffocatingly warm because of the bright stage lights.

After she made a comment about how a certain scene “hit too close to home,” I joked that “Almost, Maine” was missing a scene I would relate to, and I should get to work on writing a sequel — or at least a play with a similar theme.

One needs to only look at the ring finger on my left hand to know that the only kind of person-to-person love that has significantly impacted my life so far has been the kind that has come from friends and family. I haven’t been unloved, but it is also true that I have not been married.

Still, I have a story to tell about my views on love. My experiences are not the stuff of fairytales, but they are uniquely my own.

My story would be comedy and tragedy with slight hints of romance sprinkled throughout. It is ongoing, and it is still full of questions. The cast of characters includes everyone I meet, but some have bigger roles than others.

It is said time and time again, at the danger of the very sentiment itself becoming a cliche, but it’s true: Each person on this earth has a story to tell, and all those stories are important.

Stories found in novels and plays and movies attempt to recreate the types of stories real people have inside of them, but those works of written and visual storytelling can only do so much to paint accurate pictures of what makes people tick.

We all know that life is not like it is in many books and movies. Visions of beautifully graceful dances can end with bruised toes or skinned knees. Expectations of one person serenading another with lovely songs can end in the sounds of strangled, off-key notes.

Despite the fact that absolute perfection is impossible, it is important to share our stories. Even if we think they may seem unimportant, they can have an impact on others or bring awareness to an important issue.

This past week, I attended a meeting where the principal of the Bradley County Schools system’s alternative school, Goal Academy, spoke. Principal Kyle Page said little before introducing a student who would tell her personal story.

The courageous 17-year-old student told how she had overcome years of obstacles to get where she is today.

After years of going through the foster care system because of her drug-addicted parents, this student began using drugs at the age of 12, which she said was to dull the pain of her depression.

It wasn’t until she got kicked out of Bradley Central High School because she “took acid at school” that she began to turn her life around.

She explained that she credited both her Christian faith and the staff of the alternative school she was transferred to for helping her see that she could overcome her addiction and make positive plans for the future.

Today, she is a high school senior who aspires to earn a college degree and pursue a career in dentistry.

That was a real-life story that brought both tears and applause to the room. Her being brave enough to tell her personal story to a roomful of strangers brought a renewed awareness that there are youth in Bradley County who continue to struggle with things like depression and addiction.

Hopefully, that kind of awareness might spur people to offer their help to those in need. If someone struggling with some serious obstacles in his or her life sees that others have overcome similar obstacles, then they might be more willing to seek out that help.

Not all personal stories have to be about overcoming things. For example, it can be great for parents and grandparents to share the stories of their experiences with their children.

Every human experience can become a story, and most are worth telling. Every day is ripe with possibilities for new experiences and new stories to tell.

The point is this: Keep telling your ongoing personal story to those around you. And if you find yourself having overcome something difficult, don’t hesitate to share the experience with others. You never know what effect it might have on someone else.

While works of fiction can be wonderful, the stories we tell that are based on what happens in real life can be even better.