One thing we (should) all agree on is the fact that our voice, and our ability to speak, is one of the greatest gifts we are granted throughout life. I love being a speech communication major because, as my friends would tell you, talking is one of my favorite pastimes. I am fascinated by communication, as we all should be, and not only because communication is one thing that I know I can always count on, but it is also the one driving force behind everything that has happened in my life up 'til now.
I have been taught that communication is what links us together in life. It pushes us to develop our mental processes, and it helps us regulate our behavior and other's. But after four years of studying this phenomenon, it has become quite evident to me that one of the greater gifts communication has given us is the art of storytelling. And as my classmates helped to explain in a recent class discussion, storytelling can do anything.
Stories create communities; they can change the way we think, they motivate and move us, they reveal our identity and they influence opinions. Stories allow us to commemorate loved ones and special moments, they give us the chance to entertain (and sometimes bore). They help abstract ideas become real, and they make it possible for a lifetime to live on forever.
As our world has evolved, so has the art of storytelling. After the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, the need for stories began to fade since words could be printed and saved forever. Now, in our own 21st century, stories are still given less credit then they deserve.
It's hard to hold our attention to one subject for lengthy periods of time, especially when the World Wide Web of information lies at our fingertips. Life has become so fast paced and easily accessed that we often drown out the voices surrounding us without realizing it. Because one form of communication or another is almost always available, we have become used to being in contact with each other whenever we want. It actually seems as though because we have become so skillful with communication, we pay no attention to the ways in which we are communicating.
Of course stories are still around; I come from a family of storytellers – I hear stories every day from people whom I know and sometimes don't. However, even though they are still present in our daily lives, it's not how it used to be. Way back when, before we had printed words, everyone had to tell their stories. Years ago, before society turned completely high-speed, more people took the time to share stories. Nowadays, not only are there hundreds of other ways to communicate, but speaking in front of people has become one of the most commonly feared experiences we share.
We may tell stories, but they often lose their excitement because we get embarrassed and shy away, thinking that others are bored or have stopped paying attention. Stories often are never finished because we get interrupted so we can attend to other business. The art of storytelling is quickly fading into something we all feel more comfortable with: the more simple practice of just telling a story.
The thing is, we really have no legitimate reason for this. Maybe you think you just aren't a storyteller- but if you have one tiny flame of passion for the life you live, then that couldn't be true. Stories are what create us, and our life is just one big book that we write as we go along,
The people with whom you share your life are there for a reason, because they want to be included in the story of your life. They don't want to skip over chapters, or turn the page without finishing it. They want to hear your story, and you want to tell it because sharing it is what makes it real.
Our stories can be thrilling, funny, inspiring, pointless and random. But no matter what, they are only our stories to tell, and to be told is what they should be.
Kelly Hagenah is a senior speech communication student. Her column runs every Thursday in the Collegian.