Today I had the chance to chat with an older gentleman at church. Over a classic Lutheran potluck meal, we discussed incredible experiences he had during his childhood and college years. Fighting the selfish and juvenile urge to jump in and share my own stories, I forced myself to sit back and listen. Really listen. He was so happy to give some insight into what his life was like 30 years before I was even born - and I was happy to learn!
Similarly, my sisters and I couldn't get enough of my nana's stories about growing up in London, and more recently, we sat starry-eyed through Nana's best friend Pat's stories about the trouble they would get into together.
Every time I get the chance to hear stories from the another generation, it always inspires me to live an interesting life so that someday I will have amazing anecdotes to share with my grandchildren.
But what exactly is that je ne sais quoi that makes a life worth telling about?
I used to think it came from the items I checked off a bucket list.
Jump off a bridge? Check.
Study Spanish abroad? Check.
Sleep under the stars in Mexico? Check. (Mex04!)
Eat a bug in the rainforest? Check.
Sip wine on the banks of the Seine in Paris? Check.
Watch the sun set in Red Square? Check.
Survive an attempted mugging in Panama? Check.
The list goes on and on.
I would get so desperate to make sure my life was adventurous, unique, and intriguing. I wanted others to be jealous of my experiences. I wanted to show off everything I had done. I, I, I. Me, me, me. It was all about how I looked to everyone else.
What I have begun to realize, though, is that these stories mean absolutely nothing without the relationships behind them. It is the people with whom I share these memories that make them so meaningful to me. Honestly, the best stories - the stories that have shaped who I am as a person - are about the dear friends who befriended, accompanied, and supported me through ever country and disaster and circumstance, or they are about the people I have met who opened my eyes to a new way of thinking.
My new theory is that the people who come into your life have the chance to change you, the chance to bring adventure, the chance to alter your world view, and the chance to make you feel alive.
Find those people who already exist in your life. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Then go out and meet some new people. Everyone has something to contribute. Sometimes we just have to dig a little.
Hobbies are great. People with no hobbies besides watching television aren't experiencing everything the world has to offer or using their talents to the fullest.
Travel is amazing. It has given me a new appreciation for cultural traditions and values. It has changed the way I view myself and others.
Reading and learning also make for great conversation and ideas.
All of these things help to shape an interesting personality.
But a truly fascinating life is created through relationships. Some relationships will be there from cradle to grave. Others will crash into your life and be gone in a week. Still others may come in and out like the tide. But each relationship is a story.
Find your partners in crime, and make a great story.