As I wander through cities, one of the things I look for is evidence of fresh construction. Cities are living, breathing, pulsating organisms, and a great indicator of change is the number of cranes you can see dotting the skyline. In San Francisco, new construction emerges when the lack of residential units becomes absurd; in my new neighborhood in Brooklyn, new housing developments are popping up on vacant lots every few months.
Everything is always changing, even if we aren’t looking for it.
You have trillions of cells in your body, one of my yoga teachers reminds me. And your cells live, grow, and die and replace themselves every seven years. Every seven years we become an entirely new collection of cells. And in our personal and professional lives, metamorphoses happen even quicker. Your narrative changes every two, three, four years. You were a college student—then you weren’t. You were responsible for only yourself—and then you became a parent.
Every seven years our physical bodies completely regenerate. How often do we renew our stories of self?
Your narrative is always changing.
It’s easy to cling to a story, even if it doesn’t serve us anymore. It’s harder to shed the layers of past selves and emerge into a new narrative. The transition can be awkward, abrupt, or bumpy.
As things move and shift, you’re learning, iterating, growing, changing. You’re new to twitter and then, months later … you’re not. No one is listening to your blog, and then, some time later, people are listening. You’re embedded in the flush of a new job, thrilled to be working on your project, and then, a few years later, you’re tired. Ready for the next project, story, or idea.
Don’t cling too hard to your old narratives. Instead, build new ones. Grow into future ones.
When you’re a new employee, the biggest thing you don’t know yet is that you’re only in the entry level category for a short time before new faces come along and you’ve got to hand your bag of tricks over to the new staff. That management you’re secretly griping about? That’s you, really soon. Trying your best to do better, and learning the reasons why it’s so tough to implement your ideals. At the end of my twenties, just a brush away from my thirties, I realized with somewhat of a start that I graduated from college 9 years ago –
What? NINE years ago?
People were asking me questions that I had answers to — and many that I didn’t. I knew a lot, and yet there was so much more I wanted to learn.
You are, until you aren’t.
You aren’t, and then you are.
In my work with storytellers, educators, corporate leaders, and innovators, one of the things we do is unearth their current narratives — and watch people rebuild. Michael Margolis reminds me that “as you tell your story, your story moves.” When we take pen to paper, when we sit with friends, when we convene and collect and talk about what we’re doing — our story changes.
The act of expressing your story helps set your past narratives free. The act of imagining your future narrative helps you grow and transition into your next iteration of who you are.
We grow through story, and we grow into our story. Your narrative is changing.
What stories can you retire?
Who are you becoming next?
Writing exercise: get out a sheet of paper and write down as many stories and scripts that you carry around with you. Your age, what you believe in, how you explain who you are and what you do. Are there any that can be changed? Anything new emerging? Write down stories of your next, wiser, growing self. Who are you becoming?
PS: For everyone who’s interested in working on their writing and storytelling, I’ve got a surprise coming out in the next few weeks — if you’re on my mailing list, I’ll send you a note when my big surprise goes live!—