Perhaps others who shared these events with me, whose lives crossed mine, would recount the events differently, But that is their story. This is mine, my life as I recall having lived it, my life as I recall having loved it. --Michael C. Metskas
My grandfather, Mike Metskas, was a brave young man when he left his native Macedonia as a 16-year-old to come to America and find his way in the world. In short order “Gramps” found work, founded a business and in time returned to Greece to marry my grandmother and bring her back to raise a family of five in Oak Park, Illinois.
With a third grade education, Gramps eventually wrote and published his autobiography, Journey to Eternity, an amazing story, and a treasure for our family. I began reading it again recently, knowing it is my story, too. Gramps's gumption, confidence and courage have been an inspiration for me over the years. Whenever I would face a challenge, like going away to college far from home, or starting a business of my own, I would think, "Well, if Gramps could cross the ocean (twice!) as a teenager to come to America, I certainly can do this." Any difficulty seemed to dwarf in comparison.
That Is Their Story. This Is Mine.
I began to read Journey to Eternity again recently with new awareness. It's been a long time since I opened the book, and while the stories are familiar, I couldn't help thinking how someone else might have told each one. The story of my father dying at a young age in a work related accident, for example. How would my mother tell that story, my youngest sister (9 years old at the time), or his wife, my grandmother, who was never the same after that day.
Or the story of Gramps leaving the "old country" to come to America in the first place. How would his mother tell that story, his father, the siblings he left behind?
Today we tell stories about a seemingly unending series of crises and controversies. The challenging conversations that emerge are examples of the many ways there are to look at a given event.
We live and work and cross lives with others who share these events with us, and most likely would recount them differently, as Gramps would say. Gramps would never have stopped anyone from having a story different from his. He understood that people see things uniquely.
How tedious a world it would be if we all had the same story about everything, and yet it seems there is less room now for all of our stories to live and breathe. I hesitate to tell my story, or to ask a question about yours, for fear of being called out on Twitter or Facebook. I hold my breath (and my story) inside, instead of talking to even good friends about an opinion or belief that's different from theirs.
This can't be. I have to stay fearless, like Gramps, knowing we each have a story to tell.
Meet This Day Victoriously
Gramps was a deeply spiritual man. He always had a Bible near him, and listened to it on tape in his waning years when he could no longer see the words. Among the many gifts he left us are his prayers and other writings. He wrote, for example, that he didn't waste energy fighting, resisting, and trying to seek ways to escape anyone or anything that confronted him. He believed that there was "no situation that can cause me to be afraid." He trusted he would receive the guidance he needed to "meet this day victoriously."
Tell your story, live your life, and speak your truth. Be open to hearing others' stories and truths when their lives cross yours. Be curious about all the stories out there and find the passion that drives them. Ask open-hearted questions, listen deeply, and learn, learn, learn. Meet this day victoriously.
I am reminded of a Brené Brown quotation:
I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.
I think Gramps would have liked Brené.