Picture a young girl, the sixth child in a family of seven children. The family lived one street over from an industrial area. Fumes spilt out of the factories and into the air daily. The girl’s father worked hard as a garbage collector to provide for the family – this was at a time when garbage collectors carried big tin cans on the back of their shoulders.
Every day, the girl walked to and from the local state school. She passed run-down homes, overgrown yards and rusted-out cars left in driveways. Sometimes, a neighbour would swear at her as she passed. She did this until she was fifteen years old.
After the girl turned fifteen, while her school friends continued in the classroom, she commuted into the city, where she spent much of her days in a dim, windowless room operating an offset printer. Her day typically ended in ink-stained clothes and exhaustion.
The reason this girl wasn’t in school like the rest of her classmates was that her well-meaning parents felt it best for her to quit school as soon as legally possible to start working and earn an income - just like all her five siblings had done before.
When the girl reluctantly told her Math teacher that she was leaving school to take a job, he looked down at her and said, “Such a waste, you’ll never get anywhere in life. Will you be happy with that?”
The girl loved going to school and always enjoyed learning but felt she had no choice but to leave school and start work.
When you read this story, can you picture that fifteen-year-old girl going to work every day in that dim, windowless room? You’re probably connecting a few of the events of her life together in your mind, creating a story about the girl and her life …
What theme or headline have you come up with for the life story of this young girl? When you connect these events, what is the story you are hearing?
Now, what if I was to “fill-out” this story with a few additional events in the girl’s life…
#1 As the girl walked to and from school, she would stop under Jacaranda trees to admire their beauty. Her mother had taught her to seek beauty in nature and thank God for the simple things in life. The girl always looked out for the one house in her street with the beautiful garden – sometimes, visiting the old couple who lived there. The old couple had an intriguing den with an old globe and trinkets from around the world. She vowed to get out of that area one day and live in a place of beauty.
#2 Not too long after the girl started work, her boss called her out of the dim room into his office. He gave her a diary, showed her how to use it, and said, “Even though you’ve left school, never stop educating yourself. Go to night school. Keep learning.” And from that day, she enrolled in night classes and continued to invest in her self-development. It wasn’t long before she was promoted.
#3 As soon as the girl started working at her new job, she began “researching”. The girl talked to many people about their job and life satisfaction. She observed the way people lived and worked – from barristers to solicitors to real estate agents to property developers to secretaries to delivery people. This helped her discover what she wanted from life, and more importantly, what she didn’t want.
This led her to design a lifestyle that allowed her the freedom to travel, live in many places of beauty around the world, and create a connected life filled with meaning.
Can you see how adding these extra events changes the story of the young girl? All the events are true, but with the additional events shared in the second part of the story, the meaning changes as does the overall story.
What theme or headline could you give the girl’s story now?
By looking at events with a new perspective, we can completely change the view. Can you see how we get to shape the events of our lives? You get to choose the headline of your story.
Did you guess the girl in the story is me, Karletta Marie?
Within your own life, by retelling your story, you have the power to create a new confidence and inject new meaning into your life. I've seen this in my own life, and I’ve seen this many times with people who retell their stories.
If this is something you’d like to explore further, then please comment below. Let’s talk about your story and how you can retell your story in a way that gives you new confidence and meaning in life.
*Adapted from "Retelling The Stories of Our Lives", David Denborough.