Storytelling Lets Me Experience Others’ Stories, and My Own

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by Kevin Schaefer |

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In 2021, I kept a log of every new movie, TV show, book, and comic I watched and read throughout the year, as well as notable music and podcasts I listened to. This media diary allowed me to reflect on the various pieces of art and entertainment I consumed, and to note the things that had the biggest impact on me. Though I kept a film journal in college per the instruction of my professors, I became lackadaisical about keeping up with it once I graduated.

Looking at my six-page list from last year, I noted that my reading catalog consisted of authors of diverse ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and disabilities. Some of my favorite books included “Mixed Plate,” a memoir by comedian Jo Koy, and “Like a Love Story,” a young adult romance by Abdi Nazemian. My movie category had an unsurprisingly large number of genre flicks and blockbuster spectacles, but it also included many original films and indie gems. I watched everything from the latest installments in the Marvel cinematic universe to a documentary about the rise and fall of controversial entrepreneur Adam Neumann, who founded the company WeWork.

Storytelling has always had a profound impact on me in various forms. I was enamored with movies before I was old enough to walk, and I still have yet to master that skill. I became a more avid reader in middle school, which is also when I started to explore creative writing in my spare time.

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As a kid, my health and the inaccessibility of places often meant that I missed out on things — school field trips, youth group retreats, birthday parties, and off-campus lunches in high school. I was fortunate to still be an active kid with different outlets, but there remained a degree of separation between me and the world around me. During these periods of isolation, I went to places in my imagination.

Geeking out on storytelling

Anyone who reads my column knows that I’ve never stopped being a geek and that I apply my love of stories to every facet of my life. To me, art and entertainment, no matter what types a person prefers, are a fundamental part of the human experience. Stories enable us to learn from others’ experiences and to simply escape from the troubles of reality for a while.

For disabled people, the power of storytelling is especially poignant. Our reality is often overwhelming. Between managing medical expenses, struggling to find caregivers, and dealing with myriad accessibility issues, it’s hard living in an ableist society.

Stories grant us freedom. Whether we’re reading a book, streaming a movie or watching one on the big screen, or listening to a good podcast, we get to experience someone else’s story. It’s even better when we see ourselves reflected in a particular narrative.

With a new year upon us, I’ve already started making my 2022 media journal. I look forward to seeing what books and movies I discover this year, and how they shape my artistic identity. Maybe some of you will join me in my nerdy endeavor and make lists of your own. Though, I will be impressed if you watch more movies than me.


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