Below is an excerpt from Reclaim Your Story: Renew Your Health and Wellness through the Power of Storytelling.
Stories evoke deep inspiration, sadness, hope for humanity, and fear of humanity. Storytelling is a powerful tool that has been used through the ages. It is used to teach the next generation what to avoid and how to be successful, it warns us of our sins of the past, it is leveraged to prevent repeat failres, and is shared to rouse joy, wonder, love, awe, and hope. Our ancestors drew pictures on walls to tell a story; elders told bedtime yarns to babes; pen was put to paper in fables with embedded morals that were written to entertain and teach us. Storytelling is interwoven in our human nature. Humans seem to have this intrinsic pull to share our stories, others’ stories, and past stories though words, pictures, art, gossip, movies, song, theatre, love letters, gaslighting, poetry. We are separated by the animal kingdom in this power; this is how we impart cumulative knowledge generation after generation. It is how our pool of knowledge grows deeper with each passing generation, if only we harness that power.
I wrote this book to share just a part of my story with you in my journey to wellness. It is my humbled hope that I might positively impact and support you in your own journey. But this is just one story. It is important to wrap yourself in the power of positive storytelling through friends, family, workplaces, your environment, and so much more, because we are the sum of these stories. They influence us every moment of our life and in every decision we make. Yes, we ultimately make our own choices and determine our own path in this world, but the stories that surround us are profoundly influential, and startlingly, most of us are unaware of these stories or their impacts on our journey.
Now, maybe you are thinking, “Yeah, I can see your point, but I’m not so sure that storytelling is actually as powerful as you think it is, Carrie.” OK, let’s start from the beginning. Think about a favorite movie or song—something that inspires you or moves you to emotion. Have that in mind yet? Now think about the story it tells you, and then think why it’s your favorite. Personally, I love the movie Moana, because the story behind it is of this young girl that realizes from an early age that she is more capable and has a larger future than anyone else ever imagined. Of course, she experiences self-doubt, losses, and discouragement along the way, but in the end she follows her heart and passions to fulfill her true potential. It’s not one of my favorites because it is a Disney movie that cost $150 million to make, or because the songs are awesome (OK, that’s part of it—they really are—they’re on my playlist), but because the story resonates and inspires me to be a better version of me, to keep searching for my maximal potential even when I feel beat down. If storytelling wasn’t so pivotal or impactful to the human race, Disney would not make a profit of $4.5 billion per year.
Let me share just a couple of other stories to get you thinking about this power. Ever hear of Humans of New York (HONY)? I sure hope so, and if not, go to social media and start following this. You will be brought to tears on a regular basis through the power of storytelling. I will give you a high-level overview of this and then do a deeper dive into one of his stories. This guy named Brandon Stanton decided to do a photography project back in 2010; his goal was to photograph 10,000 random New Yorkers on the street. Along the way he started to interview those that he was photographing, which turned into a blog. He now has more than 20 million followers on social media. And he literally just takes a photo and shares a story of ordinary people he happens upon. These stories are heart-wrenching and inspirational, tragic and mesmerizing. And remember, these are just ordinary folks he stumbles upon in NYC. Why does Brandon do this? Why does he have millions of followers reading his blog? Because everyone has a story that is powerful that we can learn from and that influences us, if we just stop to listen and learn. If you think storytelling isn’t powerful, chat with Brandon and his 20 million followers.
Sometimes the folks that Brandon happens upon are not so ordinary. One in particular, Stephanie Johnson, quickly captured the hearts of HONY followers. Stephanie, otherwise known as Tanqueray in her stripper days, shared her story with Brandon and the world. After photographing and interviewing her for the initial HONY blog, the world wanted to hear more of Stephanie’s story, and Brandon responded. He sat down with Stephanie and over the course of 20 interviews shared a 32-part story on his blog. Her brutally raw story is filled with mobsters, goings-on of affluent nightclubs, scandalous high-ranking officials, drug addiction, hard race conversations, and brutally frank speech about being a stripper making “white girl money as a Black girl” in the 1970s. During the 20-interview blog installment Stephanie’s health was quite poor, so Brandon decided to start a GoFundMe to help Stephanie pay for her medical bills. Listening to her compelling storytelling, waiting on bated breath for each new installment, folks all over the world donated and raised over $3 million to help her. Strangers sending money from across the globe to help an aging Black woman, and in turn supporting belief in humanity. This is powerful stuff.
About the Author
Dr. Carrie Jarosinski is a registered nurse, wellness coach, educator, inspirational speaker, and author of Reclaim Your Story: Renew Your Health and Wellness through the Power of Storytelling and the Nursing Assistant textbook educational series. She lives in Wisconsin with her two furry companions, Winn and Xena. She likes to hike, explore, meet new people, laugh, and continuously build upon her pollinator garden in her free time. www.boldcontentment.com