I've always been fascinated by stories. I remember wandering the tall metal shelves of the library as a kid, picking away at the spines of books until my arms excitably trembled with the weight of books that I'd then proceed to devour at every moment I could the following week. I could escape through worlds and absorb myself in a narrative that made sense.
Late in middle school, I discovered theater, a different form that stories took, embodied by an ensemble of pieces that made a whole. I was captivated by the fact that I could be someone else, that for even just a few moments, I don't have to carry the full weight of who I am, just the few bits and pieces relevant to the character that I played.
Growing up as the child of conservative immigrant parents, there were a lot of expectations. I was judged by how I performed: in school, as a boy, in sports, at church. I trembled anxiously under the weight of expectations, looking for escape anywhere I could. I found that respite in stories.
I later came to understand that I loved stories because they give us insight into parts of ourselves that we may pay little attention to. The reasons for our attention or lack thereof may vary; sometimes these truths are buried deep under defense mechanisms that we've cultivated to resist traumatic experiences. I was drawn to stories because they resonated with an authentic me, not the performed me that carried just a few, select truths.
Quite honestly, I don't quite know who I am right now, nor who I plan to be in the future. But stories give me a framework to begin to understand and answer the fundamental questions of identity. I know that in my future, I will continue to hold onto stories to learn and unlearn, to give me a voice and way to make sense of the world. That way, I hope to tell many stories in the future that resonate with someone else.