“She has a story for everything,“ I think as I sit across from her in a little café in downtown Tupelo.
We are indulging in chocolate and the most delicious mocha lattes in town while she tells me all about her roaring 20s, specifically the year she left her parents and she and her friends lived like rock stars while working at a bar on Beale St.
She laughs and shakes her head in disbelief, and I admire the way her eyes light up. It’s pure medicine.
Then, there are parts I can tell that are hard for her to say out loud. She’s a mother now and mothers aren’t supposed to have stories about cocaine, dating your boss, or accidentally smuggling two pounds of marijuana across the Mississippi River.
“You should write a book,” I say to her.
She shakes her head before I can even get the words out. “No, no, no. What if my daughter reads it? I could never risk her knowing about those parts of my life.”
We’ve danced to this dance before. I urge. She refuses, and I feel heavy with all the words she’ll never write.
So, I sit instead with open palms and I listen, taking slow sips of coffee. I take my time because I want her to take her time, too. I want her to tell me everything. It’s amazing the truths that fall from our lips when we know someone is genuinely listening.
Our stories are alive. When given the liberty to do so, they sway to their own beat—to their own rhythm. So I pull as many of them out as I can and keep them like fireflies in a jar. But a living, breathing thing can only survive for so long without air to sustain it.
This is why I urge you to allow them the freedom to live. Write them. Paint them. Sculpt them. Just turn them into art, whatever that means for them.
And I’m always met with the same responses:
“I’m not an artist.”
“What if my family found out?”
“What if my employer found out?”
What if. What if. What if.
Fear is the death of all creativity. And a truth of my own that I’ve come to realize is that most people are afraid of what that story may do—what it may become if it were given the freedom to dance.
Society has a way of shaming the wild ones into silence, and it breaks my heart.
I don’t want to just give the world more of my art; I want to give it more art.
I believe that art has this life-giving ability that is unparalleled by anything else. That is the cardiac shock to the system the world needs more of. The world needs more people who are not only alive but alive in their own truth and living uninhibited in that wilderness without fear.
What are our stories if not the moments of our lives that make us who we are? They are not made to be smoothed over, dulled, and shoved into a box collecting dust with the hope that no one ever looks inside to find them. They are meant to be breathed in like air. Let them out. See them take on a life of their own and make the waves of change that we so desperately need.
You never know what stories you have that will inspire others if you simply let them be experienced.
We have this undercurrent of connection at the tip of our tongues, and we keep them silent for what?
For a dollar-per-hour job that would replace us at a moment’s notice?
For a family that has claimed to love us unconditionally, yet we don’t trust them enough to show them who we really are?
For our children? Because we are afraid to show them our humanness?
Do we really want to support a society where our experiences are shamed into being less? Or do we want to support a world where we are free to do, be, and express?
The world needs the wild ones. The world needs our art. Get rid of fear and we can be the revolution we are so desperately waiting for someone else to spark.
Art is truth lit on fire. It’s time to be our own match.