We visited Old Car City in White, Georgia. It opened in 1931 and has over seven miles of walking trails, all covered with rusted vehicles. It was amazing to see all the different makes and models with all the parts that worked together to create each specimen. Here is one of my favorites, an old eight track tape player. I was transported back to my early teen years listening to Vicki Carr from the back seat as we drove down the highway. My husband shared his similar story and then we moved on. And the irrelevant player now sits in a pile of other dead radios to represent days gone by.
We all have stories and events in our lives that have compiled together to make us who we are now. Story upon story could be told to reveal our experiences and the expertise we have learned from it all. And these stories are fun to hear, until they aren’t. Every group seems to have a ‘historian’. The person who feels it is their job to let everyone know what happened in the past and how it relates (or all too often doesn’t) to what is happening now. The story somehow always ends up with one of three endings. One – we tried this before and I was there or I tried this before and this is why it won’t work. Two – I have nothing new to contribute here so I am going to tell a story from my past to validate myself and let you know I was important. Or three – I need you to know that I have done things so I am telling this story to make sure the topic stays focused on me even if it started all about you.
Stories help us learn important lessons about each other, but no one wants to hear stories all the time. Like this eight track tape player sometimes it is time for the stories to go untold and allow the new adventures to take over. Part of being who we are is knowing when to tell the story and when to shut up and listen. Not everything needs to relate back to the past, the good old days, or our own adventures. The best conversationalists are the ones who let others talk all about themselves and ask relevant questions. People want to talk about their favorite topic, themselves. They want to tell their stories rather than listen to yours.
This deceased eight track tape player reminded me that times change, we learn and we move forward. Listening to other people telling their stories helps me solidify my own thoughts, and allows me to learn about them. As a storyteller I am reminded that all stories do not have to be about me; the key is to know when to tell the story and when to listen.