We tell stories that make us seem adventurous, or funny, or strong. We tell stories that make our lives seem interesting. And we tell these stories not only to others, but also to ourselves. The audience for these stories, of course, affect the stories we tell. If we’re trying to impress a date, we might tell a story that makes us seem interesting or witty or caring, whereas if we’re trying to justify a dubious act to someone who is judging us (or perhaps ourselves), we might tell a story that makes us out to be without other recourse in the situation. In the latter case, what we are doing is dissociating ourselves from a value we might be associated with and thus implicitly associated ourselves with a different one.
As a seasoned traveler, now expanding over 30 countries, I relate. For a person with little family and social friends common to others, my stories have migrated from benign to adventurous, from “eh” to bold, from snoozer to engaging. I didn’t change facts, but I changed the narrative. I embolden keywords, added rain when there was mist, added lush green forests when droughts had strangled most vegetation. I wanted a value greater than the reality.
I am not unlike most. I presume most of the bar stories heard over the years are extracted from mundane life moments interspersed with misplaced dreams. Where upon returning to the actual mountain, the real city, that one country, we’re exasperated, “It’s ’s so different from when I was here.”
Let’s face it, we all want love. We all want to be normal. We want to experience the life created in our dreams, but are deathly afraid of facing the very dream dreamed. As my father would say while star gazing in late autumn, “be careful of what you ask.”
My experiences are real. I have visited over 30 countries. Yet retelling tales of travel have alienated many who could have been a friend. I damaged so many lovers, so many women and so many family members. Everything I thought they wanted to hear wasn’t actually what they wanted to hear. What each of those wanted was to be acknowledged and simply told they were loved – that I thought of them as I careened the globe. I never did. There was nary a thought.
The one insight learned would be this – live your life but never forget those who’ve loved from afar. I am sure my grandmother loved me deeply, but it would have been terrific if I once sat and wrote her. I’m positive my relatives still love me, but finding the time to attend a family reunion would be priceless. Stories of walking the old ruins in Columbia are beautiful, but watching my niece grow older meant more than seeing the Great Wall of China.
In the end, my stories meant little. I missed all the life that really counted. My love involved clinging, lust, confusion, neediness, fear, or grasping to self expressions that are nothing than bondage and limitation.
Time is short and memories fade. Travels mean little. Truth is the cascade of moments missed. I loved only myself. In doing so, I neglected all of you.
Don’t be like me.