Our lives are made of the stories we tell about ourselves and the world.  This was brought home to me in a dramatic way one day in college.  My school had the ‘publish or perish’ rule for its professors so they were constantly researching something.  This could be alot of fun for the students such as the physics professor who was, at the time, on the cutting edge of theoretical physics and saw the trend his field was making back towards metaphysics and an understanding that everything is interconnected in amazing ways. Or it could be amazingly ludicrous.

I  sat and listened to my roommate who had been a philosophy student a decade before me.  He told me about being a typical student, drinking, partying, studying enough to get his grades, but he had also been idealistic in his pursuit of psychology as a way to understand the world and make sense of life.  In his senior year he put off developing his senior thesis, drank heavily the night before it was due, threw something together during the beginning of the hang over that morning, and turned it in to meet deadline, knowing that he would have to deal with the consequences.  However, his professors were delighted with the work, praised it to him and to his class, and let him know that they thought he was a cutting edge thinker of their time.

This experience was not part of the story he had lived or had told himself and it didn’t match with the story he had created for himself about the wisdom of his teachers and the profession.  It shocked him because he knew that the paper they were praising was utter crap.  His parents were both psychologists and he had grown up around all the theories and techniques in the field at the time.  He shocked to his core by this event and immediately quit school, gathered all of his money, drove to California and started working in construction.  He did that for 5 years before he could wrap his head around this twist in the story that was his life.  He came back to school to finish a degree, not in philosophy, but in political theory because in his new story, understanding life made more sense when looking at people’s actions.   He no longer believed we could understand anything more and so he would leave the psychology to the professors who thought crap was genius.

I don’t mean to pick on psychology here, but to make a point.  We are the stories we tell ourselves.  We could be a student in college, a construction worker, a politician, in the blink of any eye if that’s the story we tell.  But like all stories, there is truth, there is dramatic license, and there is blarney and it is in how we choose to act and react to all three that makes the story line of our lives.  What are the stories that define your life?  How do you discern the truth from the blarney?