The Power of Our Story

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”- Leonard Cohen.

We all have a story. My father came as a graduate student from southern India to the USA on a month long trip aboard a Spanish cargo ship. My mom, who was raised in India and Kuwait, set off to the US as a newly-wed bride after meeting my father twice in their hometown and then having an arranged marriage. My German father-in-law was an adolescent in the aftermath of War War II and felt first-hand the terrible guilt and silence that gripped his homeland. My mother-in-law recalls a childhood move with her parents from East to West Berlin before the Berlin Wall split the city in half, separating her from other family members for many years.

According to author and publisher, Jo Parfitt, everyone has a story to share. Often, we don’t take account of how our story affects us. Shared stories can inspire, entertain, resonate and provide relief. Unexpressed stories can fester and cause suffering.

Most of us have experienced change, transition and different communities and cultures. According to a survey I have been conducting among cross cultural kids, going through a move and defining identity and belonging are top concerns among teens. I recently spoke to a young, bubbly Swedish-American teen who had lived in Sweden, Panama and the USA and was visiting us while backpacking through Europe. She mentioned that she never really discussed her moves and distinct background with her peers or family, yet it is a very important part of who she is. With each move, there was a sense of anxiety and fear, particularly when coming to the US and starting high school.

Per Jo, the author and publisher, the Japanese concept of “kintsugi” is an apt metaphor for our life experiences. Adapting to new surroundings or cultures and leaving old ones can be challenging. Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery with gold dusted glue or lacquer. This type of jar is highly valued in Japan because of the many breaks and the glue that holds it together. The Japanese treat breaks and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. Similarly, we all have many fissures and new connections in our lives.

Jo suggests that we make our stories sacred, but not secret. Getting kids to open up about their own stories is a powerful and valuable exercise in developing their own identity and expressing themselves. Whether it is writing, speaking, drawing, dancing, or any other communication channel, there are so many ways to share our unique experiences. So, now is the time to start asking yourself and your kids, what is your story?

I would love your comments and stories. For more tips on identity and belonging and helping global teens, please see my recent talk on helping our cross-cultural kids to thrive.