The art of storytelling

ALEXIS PRICE | | Opinion Columnist

When I first approached senior Brendon Holl on a campus bench outside of Atherton Union, I did not know a thing about him.

I didn’t know his name. I didn’t know his major. I certainly didn’t know if he could play the guitar that was leaning on the right side of the bench he was resting on.

What I did know, however, was he had a story to tell.

For him, it began with a six-hour plane ride to England on Sept. 11, 2013.

“Last fall, I studied abroad in London,” Holl said. “I flew over on Sept. 11, actually. It freaked my mom out, but I wasn’t worried. I fly all the time.”

After landing, Holl said he realized his luggage was nowhere to be found. Eventually, he and two other students approached the desk. And, after waiting behind a teeming line of complaining flyers, it was finally his turn to put in his two cents.

“I’m getting more angry, and I’m just trying not to be,” he said. “Finally, I am the next person. And you know what, I’m so annoyed. My back was hurting from the flight. The food wasn’t that great, either.”

But just when he was going to express his frustration, he saw a beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed desk-attendant.

“She had just been yelled at by four or five other people,” Holl said. “She looks at me, and is just like, ‘Hello, how can I help you?’ She was very nice to me. I ended up getting my bag three days later, which kind of sucked. But, I did not scream at a beautiful British woman.”

I learned that Holl has a special place in his heart for studying abroad, as do I. Although I’ve never been to London and I’m not a fan of flying, I felt connected because I was able to take a peek into his life. His small adventure stuck with me.

When I first began writing in the first or second grade, my goal was to connect with others, even if I hadn’t realized it yet. At the time, I had no idea that storytelling would become an important part of my life.

But as much as I enjoy telling stories, I also enjoy listening to them. Because when people tell stories, it’s not that you always relate or share a similar interest, as I did with Holl. It’s that you develop tighter bond between you and another person.

I experienced this firsthand when I asked freshman Carissa Marquardt to tell me a personal story. She proceeded to describe three characters, two patients and one hospital.

“My mom was at the hospital with my sister and uncle,” said Marquardt. “Both had cancer.”

“She came out and was going to go in to see my sister, and she was chilling outside the door for a second because she heard my sister talking. She said my sister was praying and said something along the lines of, ‘He has two daughters. He shouldn’t go yet. Take me instead.’”

Within the next two weeks, Marquardt’s sister died. Her uncle, on the other hand, lived another five years.

“That one has stuck with me since (my mom) told me,” said Marquardt. “I don’t know what makes a story great, but I assume that if it sticks with you, it’s a pretty good one.”

It’s safe to say that her story stuck with me, too.

As an aspiring journalist, my goal is to highlight the stories of people we sometimes overlook.

I want to be a voice for those who do not have one or are afraid to have one. I want to share stories, whether it’s a powerful, life-altering experience or a silly account from last night’s dinner.

When I asked Holl why he chose to tell that story, he said that we tend to gain stories from mishaps. Losing his luggage in London, he said, was the first thing that came to mind.

“You can’t relive a memory,” Holl said. “And you can’t give another person a memory—the closest thing we have is a story. And memories are the only souvenirs we can keep forever.”

In the end, the best souvenirs are ones we can share with others, and I aspire to pass these along. I aspire to share stories of thrills and stories of sorrow, stories that spread a profound idea or make people chuckle. Because when you’re walking past another person going to class or sitting on a bench, you don’t know his or her story—until the person tells it and you listen.