There was a thunderstorm over Keweenaw County tonight. We’ve been waiting on it for over a week, basking meanwhile in the opalescent sunshine of early autumn. Until today, when we woke up to grey clouds and a rough wind viciously picking the leaves off the maple tree. The air was as oppressive as a funeral, but the storm held off until just before we went to bed.
I’ve lived through my share of thunderstorms—humid downpours in New Hampshire, haboobs in Arizona, tornadoes in Kansas. Tonight's storm might not have been the most violent or awe-inspiring I've ever lived through. I don't have the meteorological data to say for sure; it wouldn't matter if I did. What matters in the midst of the storm is the experience of it. The tympani rattle of the thunder, the wind running frenzied laps around the house, the rain stampeding the roof, the sound of the lake lashing the shore in fury.
There are nine types of thunderstorms. There are only seven types of stories. Both are ultimately just a series of natural causes and chemical reactions. You can tell your story as though it were a meteorological event. But that's not half as interesting—nor as powerful—as describing the way it felt to be in the thick of it.
People want to know when and how things went from calm to chaotic. They want to hear about the moments when you went from the familiar humdrum to not knowing what was going to happen next. They want to know what it was like being you in those moments.
You may find it hard to find the words to tell that story. You may be scared of reliving those moments, much less sharing them with strangers. If you're like most people, you've been trained to sound confident and sure of yourself, all the time, at all costs. But can we just admit how ridiculous that is? None of us experience life knowing what is going to come next. Confidence never comes until after we've lived through the storm and seen what it has made of us.