Sunday, February 1, 2015

Storytelling for Change: Making a Life Map with no Memory

I am not having enough fun or occupying myself enough in enjoyable ways outside of work. So I asked for and was gifted a photography class for Christmas. At least once a week I'll be given a photography assignment, that will force me to get out an do something.

Last week, I signed up to take an online Storytelling for Change course through Acumen. It wasn't something for which I went looking, but members of the Heart of Texas RPCV organization were joining it as a team, and it seemed like a good way to meet people I might like and get out and do things.

The first assignment for this class is to create a Life Map. The example on the web site is mainly just a cute little visual of major life moments:



But the assignment is to:
  • Think about the social cause that you are currently most passionate about. 
  • Think about all reasons why you became interested in the issue. When was the first time you interacted with the issue/learned about the issue? What are the other incidents that were relevant to this issue that happened to your life? 
  • Reflect on those moments and think about how you felt/reacted (if you did anything in particular). What did you feel/do? Why do you think you felt/behaved in the way you did back then? 
  • Try to map that as key components of your “Life Map”. Add other contextual information about yourself such as academic, professional, religious, geographical background where relevant.
There are certain social issues that clearly are more important to me than others. I make note of stories about them in my news feed, I have joined organizations in the past related to them. My passion for some have ebbed and waned over the years, but I can say that there are identifiable things I am more passionate about.

So this part of the assignment isn't too terrible. It is the part where I am supposed to think of all the reasons why I became interested in the issue and reflect on moments in my life that are related to my passion.

Literally drawing blanks here people.

I have a shitty, shitty memory. If I was into hyperbole, I would say that I literally remember nothing, but clearly that is pushing it, I do remember some things. But very, precious little.

I was on the Bloomington Commission for the Status of Women and volunteered for women and girl-focused organizations. I follow and post stories related to the ladies, gender, and LGBT issues. But if you wanted me to tell you why I became interested in these issues or the first time I interacted with these issues or the key moments in my life related to them. I could give you a big goose egg. I mean, other than being a woman, who has a gender, and a sexual orientation, I cannot give you a good reason for my interest.

Surely Sara it must have been from experiencing all that gender inequality growing up? Not really, I don't think so. I mean, I have no memories of such. That doesn't mean it didn't happen, what with me having no memories general. But when I try to reflect, I mostly take note of how most of the people in authority in my life have been the ladies. Working mother with all sorts of outside interests? Check. Female high school journalism teacher? Yep. Female faculty at journalism undergrad and female directors of extracurricular programs at Mizzou? Yes again. Female assistant managing editor for visuals, female news director, female executive editor, and female publisher at the Orlando Sentinel? Quadruple plus check.

So when did I decide that the women's issues were so important? Quite possibly because I needed a minor to go with my journalism major in undergrad and sat down to compare all the possible minor requirements with the graduation requirements and discovered thanks to cross-listing if I minored in Women's Studies, I could get a minor and only take one extra class over my graduation requirements.

Some how I think that being both lazy and resourceful isn't a super great origin story for a social issue you are passionate about.

So I stopped thinking about the social issue thing for a while and started to focus on what I could remember in general. As I worked my way forward through time trying to remember things from my childhood, I discovered that most of my memories are location, rather than people based.

Take school for example, when I think back to elementary school, I don't remember influential teachers or even students and friends. My first thoughts go to classrooms. I can remember the location of the room in the building and from there I can start to remember other things. I don't often remember too much of the room itself, but I can place it in a building.

So this is how I remember St. Vincent's



Hallway in the middle, classrooms with high ceilings on either side. I remember that my reading group in Kindergarten were the Care Bears. My first memory of hating Jello is in that First Grade classroom. There was a girl named Star in Second Grade (the coolest name I had heard of at the time). And my parents bought a used set of encyclopedia from the library sale that had a entry that said "...and one day Man may even go to the Moon." But the memories start with finding the room in a location.

Same for St. Monica's



Fun fact, the younger students are on the second floor of the building, but since it is where I started out, for some reason, it is the first floor in my mind. It comes first in time, not space, I suppose.

I don't remember anything from Second Grade there really, other than I got booted from the smart kid class right off the bat. There were a variety of reasons, but for me it will always be because I couldn't spell "pieces." And haven't been able to since. You may think that I made that clever mis-spelling on the map to prove my point, but to be honest, without spell check, I am never sure if I am spelling pieces right. Is it the "i" before the "e"? Or is this one of those words like neighborhood? ARRRGHH!!

So not knowing what my social issue origin story would be, I decided to focus on a storytelling format that would work for me. Photography and geography. I knew I wanted to do something with pictures and that I would base the stories around the places I have lived.

I had recently seen a photo project that I thought would be fun to emulate.


So I had a style and the locations were pretty easy. Now I just needed think of what would be the props and textures for each location.

Tune in tomorrow when I share the Making of My Life Map.

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