I am in the home stretch of an eight week course in storytelling. We had a dress rehearsal last night and I really felt an unprecedented sense of pride in what the group, six storytellers and two teachers, had collectively and individually produced. I’ve done a few drugs in my life, but I’m telling you there’s no better high than working with a group of people who are equally talented and supportive and passionate about their art.
I did my income producing job over the last weekend as well. At some point on the plane, I mentioned to one of the pilots that I had homework. Upon arrival in Tampa, I decided to go to the hotel bar, which is something I usually skip as I prefer to drink in my free time in the company of people I enjoy. I guess I like to keep my work and my fun separate, with some limited exceptions. I made an exception the other night as it was early, I wanted a glass of wine, and my crew seemed nice enough. The other two flight attendants and our two pilots and I sat outside enjoying some balmy Florida air, some cheap wine, some classic rock. Pleasant enough. One of my co-workers inquired about my homework, I told him I was in storytelling school. The table asked what the story was about and I filled them in on the details of the tale that I’m working on involving a young soldier I met on the plane on his way home from Iraq. I bought him a drink, he wanted to talk, it was revealed that he was released from the Army due to a pretty severe case of PTSD. We shared a connection that was meaningful, even though I’ve never seen him since and our relationship lasted four hours four years ago. When I was done with this brief synopsis, our other pilot said “Is that it? That’s the whole story?” I said “Yes. Why? Not enough for you?” He replied, “Not really. Nothing really happens.” “Well, it’s a slice of life thing, that small things can be meaningful.” He replied that I should add some things that didn’t happen as NO ONE was going to make a movie of THAT. I’m not making a movie, I replied, it’s a ten minute story. He countered with a lot more hot air including, if I was going to tell a story, it should be interesting, as then it will be MARKETABLE, and that’s the only thing that’s important in this world.
Okay. Which leads me to the blog post. I have dealt with people like this my whole life, and possibly so have you. It used to be “Why do you talk so loud? And so much? Why can’t you be like other girls? You’re going out WITHOUT makeup? You’re going wear THAT? Who told you to do that to your hair?” Etc, etc, etc. About six years into the flygirl gig I stopped flying A position (up front with the most pilot interaction) as I grew so tired of discussing why I wasn’t married, why I didn’t have children, why I’d be with an academic (Is he gay?), basically WHY AREN’T YOU EXACTLY WHAT WE EXPECT. The comments about what I look like I took with a grain of salt, the ones about my life choices grew old but I didn’t really take them personally. But when this jagweed the other night wanted to question something that’s really important to me, no. Sorry, not having it. I explained to him that the most important work in this world more often than not doesn’t generate income. He gave me an expression that was the human equivalent of a double blank domino. I asked him if he had children. Yes, he did. Could he grasp that being a parent was the most important job he had in making the world a better place? That he couldn’t be buried with all his stock options and mutual funds, that the work he had put into his children was his legacy. He relented, begrudgingly, mostly because I think he wanted me to stop talking. I told him (because I wasn’t done talking!) that I would never be a parent, but my writing is my most important contribution to making the world better….even if it’s just my world and the handful of people who read or listen to it and enjoy it. I see that it connects people, it makes people talk, it makes people think and feel, it brings something that this current technology obsessed, greed driven, third world hating mess could use a lot more of: HUMANITY. Who needs another drink?
I guess what I’m getting at is the world has a lot of people who just have no heart. It’s discouraging to me that they want to put other people down without thinking, that they feel threatened by every person who they don’t see a carbon copy of their life decisions written on. Being a thinking, feeling individual with your own opinions is often not encouraged or rewarded.
Before you give me the Debbie Downer award, please know that I know that this is not everyone. I am surrounded by truly wonderful friends and I see evidence of people who realize that having love in your life is more important than material wealth. I constantly take chances on people, and more often than not, I am rewarded for my leap of faith. But here’s some advice that I intend to live by: let’s live our lives like someone is writing a book about us. As I now see the world in such terms, when people really do something shitty, I think “You want the story to go THAT way? Alright.” Think of your favorite fictional characters; I’m guessing they’re not perfect, they make mistakes, but they are passionate and caring and driven. They certainly don’t sit around picking on other people for sport and talking about their 401K. Yawn. They certainly don’t yammer on about their 20.5 carat diamond. Yawn. They have something to fucking SAY.
Go forth and live your autobiography. Be interesting, passionate, and accountable. And by all means, don’t let the assholes of this world pull you down. Let us thank them for making our skin thicker, our game sharper, our convictions stronger. Plus every good story needs a villain.Towards the end of the evening in Tampa, my crew was discussing how they met their signficant others. A mixed bag of funny and sweet. When the pilot who questioned my story was done telling his tale about how he and wife met at a bar in college when she was stood up by another date, I told him that perhaps he should add some things that didn't happen, because if he was going to tell a story, he should make it interesting.