Know Your Why

Two important questions to ask yourself:
What do you do?
Why do you do it?

Micheal Jr.’s video Know Your Why is worth a watch. It came across my Facebook feed and I’ve looked at it several times. It was like a sermon of sorts to me and it’s taken me a while to truly understand the totality of the lesson. It’s tossed me into thought—intensely. Like, when something is so profound that while you’re doing something mundane like washing dishes, the thoughts unexpectedly leap out of your subconscious and into your conscious brain right at you and, you find yourself repeating the questions, searching for your own meaningful answers.

“What do I do?” and “Why do I do it?”

I think about my colleagues, my writing peers, my friends and I wonder if they know why they do what they do.

Hoping I figure it out

Since that video I’ve been reflecting, thinking, asking myself what I do and why I do it? I want the answers to be as clear as illustrated in the singing of Amazing Grace by the audience member in Michael Jr’s video.

Humble beginnings

People who have known me since childhood know that I was painfully shy. As an immigrant, I was put in a small kindergarten group of kids. We didn’t speak English. They didn’t speak Greek either so we were all pretty quiet. I’m only guessing that this circumstance was one of the reasons I remained shy through the rest of school. In grade one my best friend was a Greek girl named Joanna. I actually had a neighbor in class I could chat with, but unfortunately she moved. I got quiet again and very slowly learned English.

My shyness was nurtured. In lieu of talking, I started writing on loose leaf which evolved to journals. This was a way to express myself without having to actually say anything at school. It was a way to get stuff off my chest and reflect without engaging in a dialogue. This turned into a love of secret storytelling. I didn’t have to say any of it out loud and I still got to tell a story. In grade six I wrote my first fiction story. Mr. R gave it an A+. It was the best mark I ever got in grade school. I never shared the story with anyone except Mr. R. I glued it into my duo tang, super proud, and that’s where it stayed.

My storytelling left the written page and reformed itself as visual art. Painting, drawing, collage. It was another way to express all the thoughts in my head without having to say anything out loud and it was ambiguous since visual storytelling was much more open to interpretation by the viewer/reader.

So, what’s the point of telling a story if no one is going to hear it? Well, at that time in my life that wasn’t the point. The point was just to let the creativity happen, to strength train in story telling. That’s all.

Then two things happened:

First: The shy, introverted me decided to teach. What the hell!!?? That meant that I had to stand up in front of a group of the toughest audience around—the teenage beast—and engage them. I discovered a good teacher is just a really GREAT storyteller. It doesn’t even matter what is taught—as long as a good story is attached to the lesson the students are engaged and learning something.

Second: In the most basic need to survive in the classroom, I pulled out years of practice storytelling in words and journals and writing and art and translated it into engaging lessons. I wanted my students to learn, be interested, listen, and trust my moral compass. I wanted them to be entertained and I wanted them to have their empathetic heart strings pulled. I wanted them to be inspired.


I was at a wedding in California full of fancy-shmancy people. You know, brain surgeons, and professors, journalists, radio hosts, and me. As we mingled and visited at the party before the wedding I had collected a small group of these lovely folks and had them in stitches telling them stories of my shenanigans. And you know what? It was awesome. I liked it. I liked the laughter and the attention and the liked the spotlight.

Part of my why

In the video Michael Jr. says ‘sing it like your uncle just got out of jail and you got shot in the back—you know the hood version.’ That made sense to the audience member Michael Jr. was speaking to. As I get to the end of this blog post, keeping in mind the idea of this fella’s hood version, I may have found part of my answer to why I do what I do. It’s this: Angie, tell it like you have three decades of words stacked up inside you, waiting to be told. Like every word never spoken was a missed opportunity. Like someone really wanted to listen and may thank you for the laugh or the tear or the lesson. Speak like your words flipping back and forth from mother tongue to English as an additional language, shy to vocal, silent to story matter. I think that’s my ‘why’ or at least part of it.

People do change. Or maybe they just become who they were all along.

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