Your story is not a monolog you repeat to friends and strangers. It’s not supposed to be entertaining or even linear. It may have a clear beginning and an obvious end but it’s really the middle that’s important. The nebulous, sometimes incoherent middle. It’s always in development, your story, and to a large extent it’s written by people and events beyond your control.
Your story is not what you tell to others, it’s what you tell yourself. But you don’t often tell, let alone see, the thing in all its glory until you’re pushing 80 and enter the legacy zone. When you get older, or if you ever have a brush with death, that’s when you reflect back on who you are, what you did and what you’re leaving behind.
Our stories define us, to the extent that in any given moment they provide a snapshot into who we are. Knowing who we are helps us chart possible life courses, revise our thinking and our actions. It’s how we grow and fulfill our potential. But our stories also help other people understand what to expect from us, what we’re capable of, our level of trustworthiness and strength. Our stories light the way for us in the dark and let others know what’s coming.
It has been a remarkable experience getting to know Marshall Guttenberg and sharing him this past week and a half. Over the course of ten days I have shared with you what he has shared with me. It was never Marshall’s intent to crow or celebrate himself. He didn’t ask for attention. He didn’t ask me to create these portraits, this ODE. I did it because I saw in him something worthy of sharing. I did it because I am drawn to authentic, passionate people who live their lives with purpose. These are the people I want to celebrate. These are the people I want to show to the rest of the world.
“Everyone on Earth has a treasure that awaits him.” That is a great quote. But it’s misleading. We are all heroes on our own great journeys. And the Hero’s Quest always ends where it began. Through struggle, through hopelessness, by facing our fears, through all the joys and sorrows, we return back to ourselves where we discover that the only lasting treasure lies within. That is the reward for a life lived well. We await our best and wisest self to recognize this.