(Photo: Instagram photo via @kathleenbanzon on a train ride to New Jersey.)
I did some pretty intensive reflection this last couple of days and made this fascinating discovery about universal synchronicity that led me to think about the linkage between the things I find most passionate about. For the longest time I thought there was no clear relationship between all the things that I love. Each one, I believe, are so unique and disparate, that one has nothing to do with the other at all. I mean, this would have been totally fine too.
But I rediscovered my love for storytelling this past week. Since I found myself in the Adirondacks with nothing much to do but drink wine and read from the limitless ebooks available in the New York Public Library’s digital app, I rekindled my romance with stories all over again. Mind you, I do read a lot. And I read mostly nonfiction. But there’s something about the non-polluted air and being away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan that allowed my body, mind and soul to completely escape. And it allowed me to immerse in someone else’s reality.
I always, always loved a good short story. I can still recall the short stories I grew up reading. The characters I loved and hated. The lessons these characters learned. The tension build up. The cliffhanger ending endings. And of course, my favorite word that ever existed, the denouement.
And then there’s the conflict.
I love conflict. Don’t mistake this for drama. I don’t mean your regular, tacky reality show pre-produced drama. I mean genuine conflict. I always regaled at plot twists when the author shocks by taking you down a turn you didn’t see coming. Never mind whether they resolve the conflict or not. Never mind if it ends with death or loss of a loved one. Never mind if it ends them losing their mind. But conflict is one unique universal experience that connects our humanity. Not one single human soul is impervious to conflict. So much so that it happens more often than we think.
As a young, closeted literature nerd, conflict was always the most exciting part of the plot. The harder the conflict, the more interesting the story it makes. I discovered this past week after waking up in the middle of the night by the cosmic realization that conflict enthralled me so much so as a child that I even went on to study conflict as an adult. Hell, I went to grad school for it.
I’m sure it’s universal parallelism.
I am also sure that I made that phrase up. But it’s pretty wild knowing that I actually grew up to study and learn passionately about the very thing I loved so much as a child. This got me excited because now my weird affinity for conflict makes incredible sense now.
Conflicts create the characters of the stories. Seriously, there’s no story that starts with,
“There once was an already hero who lived in a distant land.”
No. Stories often begin with,
“Here we have your ordinary, nondescript human being who will embark on this extraordinary journey that may change his life forever.”
Okay, maybe not exactly like that. But you get what I mean. No character is ever deem a hero until they have proven their valor. Or have gained the badge of honor for surviving or thriving through conflict.
Perhaps I didn’t outgrow my childish enthusiasm for storytelling. Perhaps I grew up expanding my definition of storytelling. The conflict that I study and read about these days are pretty similar to the ones I read about as a child but under a different backdrop. A very real, human backdrop. Come to think of it, the short stories I read as a child are very real and relatable in everyday life. In some way, shape or form, these stories are inspired by our human truths. In real life, conflict defines who we are in our personal narratives. And it always transforms us in the end – for better or worse.