As I have taken my first, cautious steps into the new year, I have been reading a lot of Donald Miller. He’s really good to read when starting a new year because he is all about living a better story. I have been thinking a lot about stories, and I have resolved to live a better one this year.
But part of living a better story, I think, is telling a better story.
I was home on break for most of December, and I think it was the longest amount of time I’ve spent there in perhaps a year. With that came running into and interacting with some people I hadn’t really seen since high school. One night, while reflecting on these interactions, I had a horrible realization – I was still judging a lot of these people based on things they did in middle school. That worried me.
It worried me because it seemed childish. It is childish.
At some point, I need to let go of that story. I need to let go of my junior high story, of my peers’ junior high stories. It’s boring.
My friend recently got rid of all of her young adult fiction. Not the good stuff, like Catcher in the Rye or anything like that. The faux-dark, teenage-angst stuff. She sent me a picture of all of the books boxed up. She was making room for new literature.
I think I don’t do that enough with my life. I hold on to all of the silly young adult theatrics, and because of that, I can’t live a better story. So this year, I’m going to recognize that while my first 21 years have been freakin’ awesome, they are perhaps little more than the first chapter of my life story. And that’s a pretty cool place to be.
Yesterday, I woke up with a parking ticket on my car. Mondays with parking tickets are generally advised against. It’s a sure fire way to allow yourself be tempted into complaining for the rest of the day. But I made a decision. In keeping with my consciousness against complaining I decided that I would take five minutes to complain to my mother, and then I would let it go. And no one else would know about it for the rest of the day. That was the plan.
Then, something really cool happened. It turned out that the fine on the ticket was for $0, meaning I only had to pay $0! Apparently, the ticket was just a “friendly reminder.” Now, I don’t know about where you are from. But where I am from, parking tickets aren’t generally written as “friendly reminders.” And it just kind of made me feel good about the whole humanity thing.
I started thinking. If everyone gave everyone else friendly reminders, we could change the world. So often, we think the only vehicle for change is direct confrontation or raging against the system. But most of the time, raging against the system doesn’t really get anywhere. Surely, there are times when radical action needs to be taken, but if we lovingly criticized each other more, the need for radical action would become less and less.
There’s something about friendly reminders – they are based in narrative. When the parking cop left a friendly reminder on my car she was probably thinking, “Oh I remember once when I couldn’t find a place to park and I was just a couple of hours late in moving my car.” She was identifying with my story.
I find this to be terribly true in my own life. It is so difficult to give anything other than a friendly reminder to people whom I know and interact with on a daily basis. And I think it’s fine. It allows us to trust each other, to actually contemplate what we are saying to each other. It’s easy to rage against a faceless nameless story-less machine. But there is no such thing.