When we’re ashamed, we can’t tell our stories, and stories are the foundation of identity. Forge meaning, build identity, forge meaning and build identity. That became my mantra. Forging meaning is about changing yourself. Building identity is about changing the world. All of us with stigmatized identities face this question daily: how much to accommodate society by constraining ourselves, and how much to break the limits of what constitutes a valid life? Forging meaning and building identity does not make what was wrong right. It only makes what was wrong precious.
What do we do with the worst things that has happened to us?
Live with shame? Lose ourselves in what could have been? Live with a lifetime of regret, anger, hurt, shame, betrayal, inability to trust?
Or could you take all that and build for yourself something more – something that is bigger then what could have been, had ‘it’, the hurt and pain, not happened. What do we appreciate more? The things we easily achieve, or the stuff for which we have had to struggle for long and hard?
Rebuilding a life anew from the ashes of one in which I had sacrificed and lost everything that I thought gave meaning to my life, I am no stranger to struggle or building new identities. Some days I still wake up and have to remind myself that ‘today is all there is and tomorrow is promised to no one’. Each day comes with 24 hours and each hour comes with 60 minutes. It’s a deposit in your bank that you cannot save for tomorrow, neither can you borrow from what’s to come – so all you really have are these moments in which you are still alive. What we do with that is really who we are choosing to become.
Our words shape our narratives. The one we play on a loop inside our head. The one we verbalize or project to others. Instead of worrying about what could be or what was, the question that plays the most in my head is “am I doing the best I could do in this very moment?” Am I being who I want to be? consciously and unconsciously do my words and actions align with my core being?
We humans have searched for meaning through out time with the most basic question of all “why do I exist?” and in this beautiful talk Andrew presents some brilliant insights into how we come to be who we are – by persevering through all of life’s ups and downs.
Writer Andrew Solomon has spent his career telling stories of the hardships of others. Now he turns inward, bringing us into a childhood of adversity, while also spinning tales of the courageous people he’s met in the years since. In a moving, heartfelt and at times downright funny talk, Solomon gives a powerful call to action to forge meaning from our biggest struggles.