How storytelling can elevate your authentic power!
As a boy, growing up on a council estate in Manchester, my favorite day of the week was Thursday because the mobile library came to visit.
My primary school, like many in deprived areas, had a painfully limited library. The mobile library was an initiative that allowed schools to pool their books and share them across a larger area.
I was always the first kid waiting for it to arrive, balanced on the curb fidgeting in anticipation. The vehicle was instantly recognizable because of the glossy aubergine colored bodywork. I would eagerly wield the previous week’s book in my hand as the driver hopped down from his seat to slide the door open, revealing a sanctuary lined with a thick red carpet and what looked like an enormous set of bookshelves. In reality, it was about the size and shape of an ambulance.
My childhood memories are fond ones, but it was rough. I didn’t know it at the time but, as a family, we were poor. I had a safe home, always had food, and my parents were (and still are) together.
Each evening Mum would put dinner in front of my sister and me and we ate it, and the new pair of shoes each August ready for the new school year was expected to last the year. There was one television and we watched what Mum watched. My childhood was a lot of Coronation Street and Eastenders!
We didn’t have to go without, but there were no options.
As I grew up, I became increasingly aware of the fantastic job that my parents had done in raising me and my sister. Mum and Dad knew that we were poor, but as children, we were blissfully unaware. They taught us to be polite (respect your elders), grateful (you’ll get what you’re given), and assured (your only job is to be you). If we ever came close to comparing ourselves with anyone Mum would quickly remind us that we should mind our own business.
The mobile library gave me the opportunity to experience a new world each week, showing me the limitless possibilities in life. I would devour the stories hungrily, sometimes reading the same one multiple times. The other kids would sometimes laugh at me as I excitedly told them about my stories, I couldn’t understand why they weren’t as amazed as me about these lives going on all over the world. I don’t think I understood the concept of fiction back then.
Thankfully, even when I had grasped an understanding of fiction, I didn’t lose my wonder of stories. In fact, I was filled with awe that these were the creations of people just like me, and I had my own story that I could share.
My explorations into the created worlds of these writers taught me that life is messy, perfectly, and inconveniently messy. I learned that there are times when I will be the protagonist and even more times when I will be cast in the role of antagonist. There will be confusing and random storylines; sometimes there’s a painful chapter, someone leaves too soon (or not soon enough) and yet the stories unfold, oftentimes resisting our desire to control them.
Our stories are unique, and whilst there will always be rules imposed, followed, broken and made that attempt to give our stories structure, reason, logic and sense the wonder of storytelling is the unpredictability that comes from a story told so well that it conveys the authenticity of the storyteller’s conviction.
My intention was to use my childhood to demonstrate some of the areas in storytelling that are important. It’s a new style for me so I welcome feedback because feedback is a gift.