Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

The Cross-Cultural Significance of Storytelling

I used to like to think of myself as a writer, as one who takes a story and tells it to the world. I used to hope that some thing I wrote would make some one feel some way. I don’t anymore. I write because I am a listener, not a speaker, and because paper is as good a place as any to keep that straight.

I spent last week in North Carolina. I went to Cherokee and Robeson County and spent three days with each Native American tribe residing there. It was a hybrid of a service and immersion Alternative Spring Break trip, but if there is one thing that we did during our week there, it was listen.

Storytelling is central to the Cherokee and Lumbee traditions. It creates community; it keeps the history alive. It is important.

When I returned to Washington, D.C., I experienced a surreal and jarring rush of loneliness. I had buried my feet in the sand of a new and tightly knit community and had to immediately uproot myself from it. I had put my personal life on pause in a rather precarious resting place before the trip, and I returned just in time to watch it fall off the ledge and crash. People were busy. The southern smiles and hospitality had disappeared as quickly as they had arrived.

It took me a couple of days before I realized what I was missing: the storytelling. But if the people of rural Carolina had mountains of stories so high that they rivaled their Smokys, then how could the people of Washington, D.C. have none?

Of course, they did have some. Plenty. They had to. And, I decided I wanted to hear them.

I posted on a couple of places on the Internet, asking who would be willing to tell me a story. I got responses. I met with my first victim (err, interviewee) that very next morning, March 21.

He ran a burrito blog in the city. He told me about the Washington, D.C. dating scene, about unemployment and moving to the Bible Belt without a Bible. He laughed. I wasn’t lonely anymore.

Let’s be honest: I’m an 18-year-old girl in one of America’s biggest cities. I wouldn’t have to be lonely if I didn’t set my terms to be lonely. But, there was something so connective, so genuine about the hour that we shared spilling personal stories to a stranger that reminded me of two things:

  1. As Marina Keegan once wrote in the Yale Daily News, we are all looking for the opposite of loneliness. This also reminds me of a quote that I saw written on the wall of the National Museum of the American Indian, which we visited in preparation for our trip. It goes like this: “We are made up of two major clans, Summer and Winter people. Everyone belongs to one of these two groups. But, there is no dividing line. There is just a sense. Because all of us, whether we are Winter or Summer people, are seeking a good life.”
  2. We’re in this together.

Cities are scary. Life is scary. College is lonely. But, I think sharing stories, if nothing else, can be the antidote to a certain loneliness. Not everyone is dangerous because we. are. in. this. together.

It’s a project. And I don’t know where it’s going or where it’s going to go, but it’s a step in the right direction. Once I take a few more toward the same place, maybe something will come out of it

It’s a city of thousands, and as possible as it is to feel lonely when surrounded by so many other people, don’t forget that that’s not the only option. Nine out of ten people will sit down to talk with you if you give them the chance.

So, give it to them.

Alexandria Plutnicki is a freshman in the McDonough School of Business. Sound-Off is part of an ongoing series of responses to news on and off campus.


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