There are many reasons I love writing, but the main one is that people are so inherently interesting.
Hearing others' stories is a privilege and a delight, and there are few things I enjoy more. Studying journalism was a great excuse to do plenty of that, and it's a motivating factor in my writing now — especially the longform pieces I'm currently working on!
On a recent call for one of those pieces, after happily badgering my interviewee with question after question about himself and his work, he stopped me as I was finishing things up.
"Wait — if you have time, I thought maybe you could tell me a little about you?"
"Oh!" I yelped, completely unprepared to find my table suddenly turned. I chuckled nervously. "Oh, okay, yeah, I guess that makes sense."
Unsure of where to start, I sort of stammered my way into my life story, panicking, and rambled for what felt like twenty minutes at the speed of light. It wasn't ideal. I think the only coherent thing I got out was, "Basically, I'm generally pretty curious about everything."
He laughed. "Yeah, I can tell that!"
We hung up a few minutes later, and I was immediately haunted by my own awkwardness. I'd had a similar experience a few months before, when someone asked me to tell my story and I found myself instead telling a collection of stories.
WHY DON'T I HAVE A COHESIVE STORY FOR MYSELF? Existential Crisis Ryley wondered to herself.
I also wondered it out loud to a friend a few days later, when she asked me if I'd be up to sharing my testimony with our small group.
I'd love to, I informed her, but I'm really bad at talking about myself.
When she asked what I meant, I recapped my recent experiences to her, lamenting that everyone else seemed to have an obvious linear or thematic narrative while I seemed to have a lot of singular seasons or events. They marked me significantly, and they all felt important, but they didn't combine to a connected plotline.
The writer in me wants a single, unifying thread. What I actually have is a patchwork quilt.
I wrapped up my dramatic complaint session and turned to my friend, waiting for her response.
"Okay," she laughed. "So the theme of your life is God loves you."
Oh, I thought.
Oh, well, when you put it that way.
When you put it that way, and you know it's true — that the constant thread through every seemingly-random season of life is a God who loves me and makes good of it — I suddenly have a pretty great story.
I turned those words over and over in my mind, embarrassed I hadn't thought of it that way before.
About how I do have a common theme, and it's more than good enough.
And that my life may not be a linear story, it may be a patchwork quilt, and that's okay. That's beautiful, and fun, and honestly, that's real. (No one's story is really all that linear from the inside looking out, I suspect.)
The next time someone asks me about myself, I'm going to worry less about making sense and just share my little squares. Seeing as how God is the common thread, if they ask how it ties together, all the better.