“Stories make potential futures tangible.” ~Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
Stories are powerful. When I was in the midst of a very stressful move from Florida to D.C. all while conducting a job search and nursing my sweet dog, Phin, back to health, my friend, Alex, encouraged me to think about life three months down the line. Florida, the job search, and Phin’s recovery would all be behind me by then and the future would look much brighter than it did from my vantage point in February. Or would it?
As much as I believe in stories, I wasn’t sure this approach would work. I thought it was a nice idea, but in many ways I doubted its power. Could I really bring a reality into being just by writing it down? Was I just deluding myself with a happy future narrative? Was I choosing fantasy over reality? Despite my hesitations, I took Alex’s advice. I didn’t have any better ideas.
Looking back now, not everything panned out as expected. Remarkably, and much to my surprise, about 90% of it did. Since that 3-month mark in May, more challenges have found their way across my path and I’ve written letters to myself from the vantage point of October. I figured if it worked in February, arguably one of the very lowest points of my life, then why not now, too?
The journey from February to May wasn’t easy nor was it solved with some pixie dust and a wand. It’s magic was more grounded than that. It was filled with doubt, fear, sadness, and loneliness. It was also filled with a ton of hard work, courage, determination, and learning. It was a time when I took solace in my friendships with people near and far, a time when I believed in the goodness of those friends who were more than willing to lend a hand or two or three because I had the strength to ask for help.
I re-read the story crafted by my 3-month older self over and over again during that time, and it helped me get up every day and keep working. It helped me believe that I could and would make things better. I just had to keep showing up and not give up. That story gave me strength in a time when I desperately needed it. And strength, especially in the face of difficulty and loss, is its own kind of grounded magic. It’s something to believe in.