On Artful Lying and Seductive Storytelling

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This blog wasn’t ever supposed to be this selfish. It was supposed to be a blog about all the quirky things I see and me commenting on them. This next one was supposed to be about the I-phone I’d just gotten, and how it’s come to run my life. But that all felt so contrived– everyone’s said it by now. And do I really wanna talk about the I-Phone or transit or the internet, or was that just what I thought I should be talking about?

Really, what I actually wanted to talk about for the past two weeks is myself. As usual. To be fair, the past few weeks have been a major turning point. I got a job but I also got an amazing internship and blah blah blah. Lots of good stuff, I guess. But something kept telling me I shouldn’t keep talking about myself– the increasing reliance on writing about everything that’s going on in my life felt like an increasingly teenagerish thing to do. Omg, my life is really tough right now guys… I just wanted you to know that. End post ttyl. Fun times, right? Real bloggers, I assume, don’t do that: cool and to the point, they have a penchant for discussing media trends and other buzzwords that seem to hit on what we’re all talking about– capture a bit of the 21st C zeitgeist. Somewhere over in New York there’s a whole team of them, working from some coffee shop or retrofitted stone tower…

Like the Vancouver Observer
Like the Vancouver Observer

I keep trying to do that. Really. It’s not that I haven’t done that before, and it’s not like I won’t do it again. But talking about myself is just so much more fun.

I said it. I like talking about myself. And my friends know that too. I’m keenly aware that many of my conversations are like a couple rounds of competitive storytime: you tell a story, I one-up you with a better story, then you fight back with an even crazier one till I– pretending to concede– say “yeah sure but there was that one time…” And boom. Persuasive narcissism at its finest.

But don't worry; I'm not quite such an LG that I'll invade my post with a series of candids of me in a blog about myself. Instead, cue arbitrary landscapes
But don’t worry; I’m not quite such an LG that I’ll invade my post with a series of candids of me in a blog about myself. Instead, cue arbitrary landscapes

There are a couple saving graces to that. The first is that I’m as good a listener as I am a talker. The second is that I’m not that bad at storytelling. Maybe that’s just because I’ve had so much practice. But it’s all I know how to do.

I can tell some pretty crazy stories– all of them true, albeit with a garnishing of exaggeration. But I also admit that in all the craziness surrounding them, it’s often more fun to tell them than it was to live them out in the first place. Emotions can be confusing, slippery like catching a leaping fish. The one minute I think I get where I’m going– manically breathlessly happy– I get that curveball. When I tell the story again, I only have to feel how I was supposed to feel at that point– only mentioning that “I felt confused,” when that confusion contributes somehow to the overall narrative, not that kind of general life-confusion we probably all feel when we wake up in the morning. Not knowing how to feel: that doesn’t happen much in the books, does it?

"These flowers: they're a symbol of my soul guys, listen to me, seriously"
“These flowers: they’re a symbol of my soul guys, listen to me, seriously”

It makes sense to keep a blog, then, right now, since there’s been few times in my life that’s been as unclear, exhausting and exhilarating all at once. I work 50 hours a week when at best 20 of it is paid. I’m up at 6 and I don’t have a home. It’s been one of the best two weeks of my life– at least the best since Paris. And why not tell that story?

Of course, it’s not always purely narcissistic. Telling stories is how I understand the world. As I grow more mature as a writer (and less generally teenagery), my writing focuses less and less on me. I needed to begin by understanding myself before I could hope to “understand” anyone else. That word’s in quotation marks, though, because it’s a fallacy to believe I could actually understand anyone else. No one can really know another person; we only know them through the stories they tell us and through the implications– the silence– left by the ones they don’t tell. When I watch the people on the bus (the people in the stores, the people on the streets), I can only pretend I have a sense of how they work: saying they feel this or that is at best just a projection of how I might feel in their situation. It’s telling their stories for them.

So telling stories has always been for me than anyone else. It’s problematic that I post these at all– convince shares through all the twittering and facebookery– but people (sometimes) seem to like them. It was easy in Europe, because it’s Europe, right? Who doesn’t like hearing about London or Rome? It’s funny, though, because those posts were more personal, more for me, than any other pieces of writing I’ve ever put out for people. The posts were really just gargantuan thought bubbles– remember that Spain one that hit 3500 words?

Okay, yeah. That one you can hate me for.
Okay, yeah. That one you can hate me for.

But in the end it’s how I grew to understand those cities. Cities are even more complicated than emotions: in a sense they’re millions of emotions, all occurring at the same time, all able to fluctuate into their opposite within the next couple of seconds. Every person is just as confusing. Then, add to most of these European stone mausoleums probably hundreds of years of history, and you’ve got yourself one hectic sensorium. If I hadn’t written down my thoughts about them, they’d now just be a garble of memories– images or flashes of stone angels and crumbling castles– that will eventually sink into the swamp. Now they’re a collection of stories. No one more than Paris: the magical city alive of its own artistry and its history of empire. I know I’m not alone in telling that story.

90% of the world still tells that one
90% of the world still tells that one

So it only makes sense to continue spinning this summer in Vancouver. It’s taken the average-four bus trips a day I take every day to make me realize how little I know this city. 2 million may not be 10 million, but it’s still two fucking million people– scraping every day to get by.  Maybe if I keep talking, telling, I’ll get just a little bit closer to understanding this place (the city with three new towers and one less bar every day).

But maybe it’s all a fallacy. Hopefully it’ll make a half-decent story either way.

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