Now here's an interesting article about memoir-writing as a cultural practice. I'm more concerned with the American point-of-view than the Asian one, as the only direct experience I've had of Asia was a 2-week research trip to India in 2008; whereas I've been an American all my life. And really, aren't Americans the most fascinating creatures anyway? Or wait, is that the self-obsessed American in me talking?
According to the article Why Americans are Obsessed with Telling Their Stories + Asians Aren't, "Storytelling helps us shape our 'selves.'" And in the land of the free, that's what it's all about, right? Any individual can achieve anything she wants ... even if it means stepping on other people to get there. Because we are separate 'selves," we have to look out for number one. Darwin taught us that. Was Darwin American? He should've been. He will be when he's reincarnated.
And yet, the more self-obsessed we are, the greater the distance and the disconnect from others ... in turn, the lonelier we get. So then we tell our stories and listen to others' not as a way to stand out and be different, but as a way to reconnect and reaffirm our shared humanity.
We learned how useful this tool was when we were 3:
"Sharing personal stories is an essential ingredient in everyday conversations: We are eager to tell our stories and are fascinated by those of others. Even at preschool, 'sharing time' is a common Monday-morning activity ... "
Ah, yes. Preschool, where we in America learn everything we will ever need to know. Wash your hands, celebrate birthdays with cupcakes, build improbable wood block towers (i.e. dream big), and SHARE. YOUR. STORY.
I ask are you obsessed ENOUGH because I want you to know how important you are, Asian or American or Brobdingnagian. YOU have a story to tell that only you can, and I want to help you get it out as a fellow self-obsessed American. Because when I listen to it, I see all the ways that you and I are different ... and all the things we have in common. I share your joys and your triumphs and your heartaches and your losses and your dreams.
A spiritual leader once said, paraphrasing the Bhagavad Gita (interestingly Asian): "Your life is like a strand of pearls, each experience a new bead. When all is said and done, no one has ever had a necklace like that." To wear your necklace proudly (to read your memoir proudly) let's start building it, one bead at a time, today.