We all have a story. You might not think you have one, but you do.
I first learnt this when I stumbled upon Humans of New York. Originally a blog, which then turned into a bestseller, the concept revolves around photographer, Brandon Stanton, uploading snapshots of different people he encounters in New York along with soundbites they've given him. The amazing stories he documents make for emotional reading, but more than that, they open up conversations. Posts on the Facebook page are often followed with commenters relaying their own similar tales.
One post I saw recently was about a man who went from having only $1 for dinner some nights to owning and running his own shop. He said that even though it closed three years later, he saw it as a success, because he saved up and did it all himself. He added that most of his friends were in jail.
A photograph of a couple outside a bar was accompanied simply by the quote: 'There were 50 of us on a fishing boat when the engine broke in the middle of the ocean'. A female commenter on the page went on to tell her grandmother's immigrant story, and how she was pregnant and desperate to give her baby a fighting chance.
Not all of the entries are as epic or novel-worthy as that, some aren't even stories in the traditional sense of the word. Some are just thoughts, but they say a lot about the people behind them as well as society. One woman photographed said she'd promised her son karate lessons. She hadn't realised they were more expensive than she could really afford, but she paid for them anyway, because she wanted her son to understand that a promise is a promise.
A music teacher, also a violin busker, explained that the class he taught had been cut from an hour to thirty minutes, because people thought of music as an extracurricular.
Reading these snippets made me realise that it's easy to forget, when you're living out your own daily narrative, that we are more than just strangers on the street. It's easy to forget that people have done and seen incredible things when we're riding under their armpits on the crammed tube at rush hour. The man picking up litter by Oxford Circus has a story. The woman sat on the train platform looking at notes has a story.
Basically, it isn't just people who are photographed or have spoken out that have something to say. We all do. But often, we feel restricted by the criteria that defines something as significant or not, what warrants an 'amazing' and what is simply 'every day stuff'. Often, people are afraid of being judged, too. You don't have to have a mohican, or have been through a tragedy, or be making your own app to be interesting. There are no prerequisites to being an interesting person. But, still, because of these factors, we often neglect to share things, even with our nearest and dearest. Until a few years ago, I didn't know my dad got the scar on his neck by catching it on his bunkbed as a child, after stealing a biscuit and hotfooting it back to bed to avoid getting caught by his parents. I didn't know my mum used to do judo. I didn't know my great-grandmother lived past 100.
This might sound obvious, simple, maybe even cheesy, but the best stories are around us all the time, everywhere. Now let's share them.