Author's note: This post was originally published on 12/14/14.
I am more than just one single story. I am built upon a foundation made up of multiple experiences, feelings, interactions, victories and accomplishments. Each one of my life milestones is a story that contributes to the sum total of me.
And I keep adding new ones every day.
Several years ago, the expression, "a single story," came to my attention thanks to a Ted Talk given by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian-born novelist and feminist. At the time, I was in the middle of an identity crisis of sorts, trying to figure out a big career move that I was uncertain about, when my dear friend, Cynthia, asked me to sit with her to watch Ms. Adichie speak. It was transformational, to say the least.
Once the video finished, my friend turned to me and said, "You see, Anne? You are focusing too tightly on this one single story. You bring to this opportunity all of the things you have already done. You are so much more than a singular job title, and your professional options will only expand as you add more experiences to your resume."
I've been grateful to my friend, Cynthia, and to Ms. Adichie ever since then, for helping me put into words what I was afraid to admit to myself. I was hesitant to recognize or place value on earlier life challenges that I had faced and conquered because not all of them fell neatly into the category of what I perceived to be my professional identity. As a result, I had lost sight of the wealth of talents and capabilities I would be able to bring into new situations. Moving beyond the assumption of myself as "a single story" gave me the confidence I needed to step forward into the imperfect future and see what it held for me.
We all have the tendency to define ourselves by our present circumstances, and lose sight of the other stories that we have written or have yet to write in our lives. Mothers, wives, sisters, friends, partners, risk-takers, thinkers and survivors - we wear multiple labels and bear infinite burdens throughout our lives.
Let's each embrace our unique combination of stories and find strength in them as we welcome the start of a New Year.