In 2008 my grandfather invited my older brother and me to perform in a musical in a little town up the coast called Bowraville. For six weeks my brother and I stayed with our grandparents in Valla Beach memorising, rehearsing, and singing. It is one of my fondest memories my brother and I.
Three years later I began theatre lessons at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre in Wollongong. For the next six years I learnt how to tell tales, spin stories, and pretend properly under the stage lights. At the same time I was learning to create and perform magic as a solo Magician busking in the streets of Wollongong. Two years ago, I worked for the puppet company Quiz Worx, learning how to puppeteer and tell stories to kids in a professional context. Storytelling became a matter of second nature. In living and breathing stories of all types both on stage and off it, I saw the world through the lens of a storyteller.
This semester I have been learning to close my mouth and open my ears. In observing the interviews conducted by Kate Bowles in the BCM313 (The Future of Work) workshops, I have opened up my mindset and attempted to change the lens I see things through. Over the course of a few weeks, Kate interviewed three very different interviewees about their stories of work. Although I found each of their stories fascinating for different reasons, I found myself lost in enjoying the process of listening.
More than just opening my ears, listening for me involved watching each interviewees expressions before, during, and after questions. In an interview with Bailey Bond, probably my favourite of the interviews, I felt really connected not only his story, but Bailey as well. Bailey told us a story of a difficult and uncertain time in his career where he felt stressed. It was clear in the interview that this experience had left a scar that may take a long time to heal. Not only through his words, which he used to describe feeling “burnt”, but through the emotion is his posture, expression, and change in voice. Suffice to say, Bailey was generously sharing with us an emotional journey, not just a story.
Before I heard Baileys authentic story, I hadn’t much interaction with him. Prior to the interview I did a little research into Baileys connection to our class and had a chance to view his online public persona. I saw a professional man who worked for the student recruitment end of UOW. I saw a man who supported new students who had a particularly promising future at the University. I saw a man that I didn’t know.
Story-listening changes the way you view people. Our worlds are not made up of empty individuals. Each of us have a ‘club of life‘ that surround us, the people that support and understand us. Each of them have their own in turn. Being welcomed into Bailey’s ‘club of life’ temporarily was a really eye-opening experience.
Everyone’s ‘club of life’ is incredibly complex and unique. My club is unique because I actively seek out more experienced people to be in my life and share my journey with. Whilst listening to Bailey’s story there was a powerful moment where I felt that I connected with him as he said “I significantly value mentorship”. He spoke about the privilege it is to bring others into our lives as role models and advisors and to pass on to the next generation the same gift of mentorship to those younger than us. This is a massive part of my story and takes up a large portion of my ‘club of life’. Knowing that he and I share that value created a little bond for me and showed me yet another side of him.
Stories are incredibly personal. We should all be so careful of the privilege that we are granted when people bring us into their lives through their stories. Being part of the exclusive trust in one’s ‘club of life’ is a unique privilege that must be respected.
Let me challenge you, next time someone offers you their story don’t just hear their words, view their world.
Russell, S & Carey, M 2002, ‘Remembering: responding to commonly asked questions’, The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, no.3, pp.1-13, https://narrativepractices.com.au/attach/pdf/Remembering_Common_Questions.pdf
White, M 1997, ‘Re-membering and Professional Lives’, Narratives of Therapists’ Lives, Dulwich Centre Publications https://supervision.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Re-membering-and-professional-lives-by-Michael-White.pdf