Old stories make new stories

As I go in search of my learning from this week, I seem to be on a trip down memory lane. School days, college days, first job days all flash by in a kaleidoscope, as I tumble through different life phases in a flash. Many memories come racing back. I now see with much greater clarity that so much of who I am, and what I do, is shaped by the stories I tell myself about these days.

A playful thought enters my head. I wonder if I could reframe a story? Tell it from a new angle and see if that in some way shapes my future in a new way… so here goes my experiment.” Where do I begin? I ask myself.

My dad shared a picture of my grandparents recently. Gran and Grandpa before they were even mom and dad. Taken on 30th of  September, 1945, in a beautiful garden somewhere, as they set out on life’s journey.

So many of my childhood memories revolve around these two wonderful people. I sorted through all the memories and stories, and I found two that could do with a reframe.

Learning how to drive. TMC 7258 was grandpa’s faithful ambassador, a car that I have so many memories of. Early morning driving lessons with him where his famous temper was on full display is one such story that I have told a hundred times.

“Put it in first gear and slowly let the clutch out” was his terse instruction. I nervously did as I was told, but before I could start letting the clutch out he barked at me. “That’s not first gear. Pay attention.” He then grabbed the gear lever and put it into third and try as I might, as a novice driver, getting started in third was a shuddering disaster.

After a few failed attempts, I made a feeble attempt to correct him. “Do you know how many years I have been driving?” he thundered. “Do as you are told” and so went that morning’s driving class. I now realise he was trying to teach me the importance of speaking up when I knew something was wrong. If I had found my voice and shown him that I knew what I was doing, I would have got off to a much smoother start. A wonderful reminder of how I need to drive forward if ever I find myself in such a situation again. Thank you, Gramps, for that lesson and so many others that shape my life today.

Gran and her rubber slipper. One day, long before I was ready to drive, I drove my dear peaceful and loving gran into a dreadful rage. I decided I did not want to go to school one morning. I must have been in the 3rd or 4th standard. A stomach ache was enough to convince gramps that I was not up to school. Minutes after he drove out of the house in his trusted ambi, my stomach ache vanished and I was running around playing. My gran caught hold of me and asked if I had “fibbed” about being unwell. My cheeky retort was “who are you to ask me?” I have never seen her get so angry. She turned a dangerous shade of purple “Who am I to ask you?” she said taking off her rubber slipper. I did you not, she then chased me around the house and I got a few whacks on the cheek that I will never forget. “I’ll show you who I am”.

In all the years I knew gran that was the only instance she raised her hand and got really angry. On most occasions, she was the kindest, warmest, and most loving grandma with her knitting needles and sweet smile. However, the rubber slipper encounter was enough to show me who the real boss of the house was. For all her niceness and kindness and caring. She was the gentle and firm hand that had grandpa wrapped around her little finger. He used to call her “child” and looked after her like one. She was the only one who he would listen to and our lives were the better for it. Maybe the child was the adult who guided all important decisions with her unseen hand. (I got a taste of that hand just once and in my case too I did not see it coming.)

Together they made my childhood beautiful. I have told myself stories like these so often. This time I have chosen to see them through slightly different lenses. Maybe old stories can be the root of new stories. The stories we tell ourselves become our life stories. The good news is we can all tell ourselves new stories about ourselves. Try it out, take out an old picture, even if it’s one that you carry around only in your head, and reframe it.

“The first step to thinking clearly is to question what we think we know about the past” Peter Thiel, page 13, Zero to One. Notes on startups or How to build the future.

Old stories can make for new stories. Try something new. Reframe the past. Build a new future.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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