*Pentecostal foot stomp*
God has revealed my purpose to me. He has revealed to me how I am to give Him pleasure during my brief (but not too brief) stay on earth.
In a leadership seminar at my church, the attendees were advised that one can usually discern their passion/ purpose by investigating what frustrates them most.
So, what frustrates me?
Stereotypical, two dimensional portrayals of ethnic groups, race and gender roles in popular media frustrate me. The lack of diversity of stories frustrates me. The fact that I know little because I was taught little about my history beyond slavery really frustrates me. In our high school history books ‘there was nothing there of us, nothing at all’. What about the exploits of the great ‘non-whites’? The fact that I cannot state my mind without being classified and pushed aside frustrates me. Please do not put me in a box as a political activist simply because I am a woman with something to say.
I’m really passionate about sharing more than one side of a story. There is acute danger in a single story/ perspective. If it were solely up to my Trinidadian experience I would still think that there was no way that I could relate to or connect with ‘white people’ until I came to Scotland and realized that ‘white people’ were just that…people.
I know (from experience) that stories…dialogue, foster EMPATHY and prevent senseless conflicts. There is an amazing account of empathy encouraged through dialogue, that I found in an RSA Animate video. Here is a chunk of the story (click on the video link to watch the entire video, I strongly recommend it):
“’It won’t stop until we talk’; this is the slogan of a grassroots, peace building organization in Israel and the Palestinian territories called ‘The Parents Circle’. What it does is bring together Palestinian and Israeli families who share something very special. These families have all lost members of their own families in the conflict and the parents circle brings them together for conversations, picnics, meetings where they share each others stories. They discover that they share the same pain, the same blood; they make that empathic bond. They also have other fantastic projects. My favorite one is called ‘Hello Peace’; it’s a freephone telephone line so anyone can pick up and call that number. If you’re a Palestinian and call it, you’re immediately put through to an Israeli and you can have a half hour conversation. If you’re an Israeli and pick it up, you’re put through to a Palestinian. Since 2002 over a million calls have been logged on the ‘Hello Peace’ freephone line. That is a kind of project trying to create grassroots empathy.”
On Saturday 9th February 2013, Nicolas and I attended the ‘Little Book of Monsters’ concert at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh Scotland. It was a family show which was great because as a university student I rarely see so many cute little people in such abundance. The highlight of the show was Matthew Sharp’s performance of Roald Dahl’s poem ‘Three Little Pigs’, which was dramatically accompanied by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. As I listened to Matthew Sharp entice the audience with his rendition of the ‘Three Little Pigs’ I got the overwhelming feeling that this is what I was meant to be doing with my life…telling stories.
It was not the first time that this overwhelming feeling gripped me. I have usually experienced it when I see an amazing piece of art, or a stunning photograph, or attend a musical or concert and hear a moving melody. Excellence and fortitude have always inspired me. I was so moved by Sharp’s excellent performance that, the proverbial lightbulb switched on in my head. I have always had a passion for art and theatre…I’m a natural performer (even when not on stage :P…just ask anyone of the Sheppard clan :P). I have always known that performance, theatre, photography, writing, videography, design…CONVEYING A MESSAGE by various means…was my niche.
I’ve done it all y’all: sing, dance, play an instrument, recite poetry, wrote short stories, acted in a play, acted in a musical, wrote for a daily national newspaper, wrote for the (now defunct) school paper, composed songs and crafted stage productions (that no one has yet seen or heard), designed outfits.
As a child (and a young adult…shhhh), I want
ed to do EVERYTHING. You could not and you still should not tell me that I ‘can’t do’ something…from flying planes to being a decorated Olympian. The sky was the limit. Now, I understand why.
Storytellers are informed by a host of experiences, ~Jacqueline of all trades, master of none~ A wide range of experiences is needed to hone my craft. Thus urban planning, music, travel, piloting…the more the merrier. This revelation, instead of making me less committed to the task at hand, i.e. attaining a Bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning, has given me a burden of responsibility to the task. As the Good Book says ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters’ Colossians 3:23.I don’t feel stifled or limited by knowing my purpose…I feel empowered, focused and free!
I now understand that my seemingly unfocused pursuits in photography, art, music etc were not ends in themselves but merely media which I would use to tell a story. So much so that the message was usually more important to me than the quality of the means/ media! I remember telling my boyfriend that I’m a photo-journalist (not a photographer) because the story behind the photo superseded the technical quality of the photograph. I now appreciate that a good quality photo can enhance a story. 😛
However, I really dislike practiced smiles and poses in photographs. Why? Because you and your body are not telling me a story!!!
Yes…having a knowledge and awareness of your body and what makes you look good is great, but most people do not posses this in front of a camera and thus, resort to the practiced, plastic fake smile. When I try to catch you off-guard in a photograph, it’s not to make you ‘look busted’ but to capture the true essence of you in that moment…not a pose.
*photography rant over*
Back to the program: I am a Storyteller.
Check out my girl Chimamanda Adichie speaking eloquently on the ‘Danger of a Single Story’.
The beauty of my storytelling purpose (as with every other true purpose), is that there is no competition. Firstly because there are endless stories to be told and new ones being born and created every moment (so no shortage of supply) and secondly because every storyteller has a unique voice and perspective.
What’s your story?