This I Believe

Nathan - State College, Pennsylvania
Entered on December 21, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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Seeing Through Another’s Eyes

It was a dark and stormy night. Some friends and I were on a youth retreat. We were all sitting around a flickering campfire, telling jokes, making smores, and generally having a good time. Then some of my companions started to tell stories. They whispered tales of the unknown, tales of the frightful creatures that inhabit the night. Each story was more fantastic than the last. Despite the fact that we all knew of the falseness of these tales, several among our group (myself included) began to get uneasy. In a normal setting, we would have laughed at the very idea of being scared by some silly ghost story, but here, in this dark wood, it seemed like anything was possible. The stories seemed real.

Though many things have changed in my life since that outing, my belief in the power of stories has not. Whether it’s a classic novel or a Spider-Man comic book, all stories give you the opportunity to see through another’s perspective. Stories let you see how different characters react to different events; perhaps knowing how Peter Parker or Harry Potter react to a situation will help you prepare for it as well. Obviously, there is a limit on this idea; I doubt that anybody reading this will ever have the opportunity to fight a giant troll. Then again, who knows?

In one of my first years at high school, a teacher of mine put forth the idea that all stories had been told before; that each new story written was just a combination of previous ones. I enjoyed the class, but I never quite bought into this idea. Stories are not just rewritten, stories are created; they are only limited by your imagination, and imagination is limitless.

Though I had many good ideas for stories, I always found writing them down difficult. There was a period where I was positive that I would become a critically acclaimed author someday. The problem was that nothing I wrote ever seemed to come out right. I would write a few pages, and then come back the next day, scrap everything, and begin anew. I was never content with what I wrote. Eventually, my motivation began to drop, and all my unfinished stories lay in some forgotten drawer in my desk.

A few months later, I discovered one of my old stories while sorting through some schoolwork. As I gazed at it, it almost seemed like it was staring back at me. I decided that I’d had enough of never finishing any of these stories; it was time to complete one. It took me quite a while, and frustrated me constantly, but I eventually came up with a copy that I was happy with. Through constant revision, my original idea had become a living, breathing story. The feeling of accomplishment was incredible.

Writing isn’t just some pastime reserved for the people who make their living off it. Anyone can write a story; each individual person has various opinions and ideas that are different from anyone else’s. That’s why stories are not rewritten, but created; because people have diverse minds, and stories are our opportunities to see inside them.