Courage – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s understory from June 2019’s theme “Courage”. 

 

Tonight, Nashville, we shared tales of courage.

We counted noses and found Toby dead…until he wasn’t. After a panic attack in knee-deep hair, we learned you have to mow the pastures. But now we can throw dead squirrels by the handles.

We moved to New York City with no job and two roommates who wouldn’t kill us. We had an exciting internship and gave tours of crying places; but, despite it all, we grew up there.70- Courage

We didn’t have language for it, but we attracted friends who were “off to the side.” Interviewing their stories helped us become visible—and we earned the pin.

We knew the rules, but we were strangely jumpy and sleepless that night. The ground-shaking steps produced concurrent fear and courage, which led us to feel sympathy for our biological systems and acknowledge the value of bear mace.

We didn’t know we were hit, but we were visited by a self-serving ex, a protective sister, and friends who dug in. After crying alone at our desk and watercolor tutorials, now life is messier…but it’s ours.

We were too shy to ask for a Taco Bell refill, but we explored the American side of Uganda. We endured a bargain haircut from a non-Bar-Mitzvahed beard butcher, and congratulated ourselves on how far we have grown.

We bravely weathered a terrible hurricane singing over the howling winds, while our brave prince prepared to do what had to be done—however ridiculous it may have been.

We endured two years of tormenting till pillow punching lessons and an angelic choir ended the torment. Then we met a new bully at a new school, and waited for the hit that never came. And 30 seconds changed the rest of our lives.

We knew something was wrong, so we researched the disease and decorated the walls. We took the longest ride of our lives, throwing up till we got the great news. But now we can tell her story.


Thanks to all our storytellers! We’re looking forward to our next night of stories for “Snapshot,” where we’re telling stories based on personal photos. Submit your story idea here!

71 - Snapshot

Advertisements

Courage – The Understory and Next Theme

Here’s Rob McRay’s excellent understory from June 2016’s theme “Courage”. 

Nashville, tonight we encountered courage.

We had the courage to live our dream for two hours in front of “the man” himself—a dream we had chased since we twirled in front of that chain-smoking lady with red fuzzy hair.35-Courage

We had the courage to hike to an Iceland waterfall, crossing the icy current in our bare feet and bare…other parts, climbing a mountain, screaming in fear, and realizing that we had crossed the line between courageous and stupid.

We had the courage to move from our homeland to a strange new people who questioned our marriage customs, where we got up the nerve to teach brain science and were rewarded with a rare letter that led us to our new home.

We failed to find the courage to take a stand in “the Walls,” when a baloney substitution led to banging plates and then to the Pork Chop Riot…and the unleashing of the dogs.

We saw the courage of an old man holding the hand of the one who held his heart, and we watched him struggle to smile as he asked “Do you know who I am?” and she asked “Will you remember it for me?”

We had the courage to overcome our phobias and move across a continent, where we learned that Hollywood stereotypes are rarely true, even of New Yorkers, where we realized that we can indeed make it anywhere, and where we found the freedom that comes from changing a number.

We glimpsed courage in a friend whose life took him from dumpsters to jails to a homeless camp, where he had the guts to feed a dog, and share a blanket, and risk arrest to protect the humble homes of the fellow homeless.

We saw the courage of a friend who dashed the 8-yards to grasp a deadly broom, and found we had the courage to…save ourselves, and learned that one needs courage even if the bear is just a dad under the deck.

We found the courage to listen to the voice within, and to break free from one who warped God and truth, and to listen to the stories of survivors who helped us move from a resounding “no” to a healing “yes.”


We’re back on July 25th for our next theme “Change.” If you’ve got a story, let us know here!

37-Change

Gayathri Narasimham – A Newbie in the US

For June 2016’s “Courage,” Tenx9 newcomer Gayathri Narasimham told of coming to the US from India for school and having to borrow a little courage along the way. 

I have enjoyed living in Nashville – this beautiful city is truly a home for me now, more even than my home in India. This story though, is about my first time in the US, before I arrived here, and my experiences interacting with Bruce H. who was and still is faculty, at Western Carolina University.

Several winters ago, I traveled from Chennai India, to Western North Carolina. The journey is memorable: it was my first flight anywhere; and an international flight at that. I think the excitement and newness of it all downplayed the fear I might have felt. Anyway I reached Chapel Hill, North Carolina, first, where my cousin lived and he was showing me around for a few days.

Again, the only things I remember about Chapel Hill in the company of my cousin and his many Indian friends are:

  1. Walking in Franklin Street.
  2. Drinking tea in an Afghan tea-shop which was so cozy that cold winter; and 3. Going to Barnes and Noble. I was acclimatized, and a little acculturated but still not prepared for the more homogeneous culture in Cullowhee, which was where I was going to school in Western Carolina University.

That year, they had had record snow in the mountains – so, when I arrived, everything was white, literally. I met a few international students but very few Asians; later I came to know that there were three Indians on campus including me, and that was it! A complete change from Chennai!

My new community was the graduate students in my department, and the faculty with whom I took classes; did research; assisted with their classes etc.  As much as they were novel to me, I was novel to them too. Their conversations with me, would center around arranged marriages (really how do those work?), language, food and of course, religion.

I shared an office with Sally, a grad student in the Clinical Psychology program. She was this really brisk, bubbly person, no-nonsense type; it was fun to just talk with her, she had opinions about everything. Once when I was eating some tapioca pudding she said, outright, “Gayaaathri, how can you eat that? – its just like snot, so gross!” Whoa, shocking! But that’s Sally: you have to get used to her. I never ate tapioca pudding after that, in front of her.

I first met Bruce in the Research Methods class. Of course, Sally had warned me about him. The vibe among the grad students was that he was one of the most respected faculty, kind of more formal than the others; and extremely choosy in his grad students and research assistants. Well his opening lines in class were, “They are saying women are from Venus, but I’m really from Mars.” Which made us laugh, and I probably laughed the hardest, more when I found out he really was – from Mars, Pennsylvania. He was strict, yes, but always with a twinkle in his eyes!

The second semester, all of us who wanted to do anything further, like, um, get a PhD, had decided to do the GRE.

Bruce was teaching a class on General Psychology, which would be great preparation for the Psychology subject test. So we all decided to take it. In our first class meeting, Bruce said, “Folks, this is a review of many general psychology concepts; I have the syllabus designed so each of you will be responsible for covering 1-2 modules…so sign up for the modules you would like to teach in your order of preference.”

I think my first choice was cognitive psychology, but Brain & neurology was my second choice. The brain module was the first module in the syllabus, and I figured I’d have some examples from others to go by before it was my turn. Guess what? I got the Brain module – Bruce told me later no one else had even selected it.

This was daunting: I had never taught anything before; not in the US anyway; and then I had no idea of the scholarship I needed. No examples to fall back on, even if I made a faux pas, it’ll be like “Don’t do what Gayaathri did!” Nerve wracking – I talked to everybody I could – faculty, “Oh you’ll be fine,” and grad students, “Great! You’ll set the model for us! Yeah, you’ll be fine!” That was very helpful!!

Anyway, the day came and went; It was an 8am course; two of my best grad friends with whom I used to hang out, completely missed my class; nevertheless I continued. They came after the class ended, and reported to Bruce sheepishly: they had slept through their alarm! Bruce told them to apologize to me! I laughed, but breathed a sigh of relief, now it’ll be like, “Don’t do what Bryan and David did!”

So the semester was ending; we were talking about who to ask for letters of recommendation. Sally told me, “You know you cant ask Bruce – he never writes letters for anyone!”

Two faculty I asked for said yes, also said I should try asking Bruce for the third letter. So I mustered my courage, preparing myself mentally for a denial, and approached Bruce.

“Hi Bruce! I was wondering if you would write me a letter of recommendation.”

“Where are you applying?”

I mentioned a few places, Georgia, Carolina, Vanderbilt, West Virginia (one of my letter writers wanted me to go there), and then said, “But not Harvard.”

See, at this time, my uncle had gone to Harvard and was a legend in our family; my decision to not apply was fear I would be rejected; rather than face the shame from my family, I decided to just avoid. Bruce, said, “Of course not! Harvard is heavily theoretical – you would not like it there. But you should apply to Minnesota.”

Minnesota?! In my solid defense against Harvard, I had completely ignored the top universities for Child Development – the field in which I wanted to do my doctoral work. I blabbed, “But Minnesota? You mean the Institute? That’s like the top school!”

Bruce was calm, “Yes, so you should! What’s the worse that could happen? They can tell no, and that’s fine! Plus, I’m writing you a letter, so you should!”

I nodded meekly, mumbled thanks and walked away! Back in the office Sally the wise was in, and I blurted the whole to her. “Wow! So Bruce agreed to write you a letter? That’s a first!” Then, without missing a beat, “But you know, Gayathri, if he does not write a strong letter, nothing could be worse. Did you ask him if he’ll give you a strong letter?” I looked at her stupidly: there are such things as strong and weak letters? I was NOT going back to Bruce.

I prepared my applications, including to Minnesota; it was winter break and I was invited to Syracuse by said uncle. In the course of our conversations about future plans, he asked to see where I was applying. When I mentioned Minnesota, he burst out laughing. “You can’t stand the winter there; what’ll you do?!” And he looked at the brochure from Minnesota and I swear it said, “Minnesotans pursue an active lifestyle, including, hiking; biking, swimming and other sports in the warm climates of Florida!” More laughter. Then came the worst part: he asked to read my statement of purpose; Now, I have to tell you I was feeling good about the statement – I had written about 3000 words and all I needed to do was edit it down and I’ll be done. My uncle though, took a quick glance. He said, “ok you can keep the first sentence – the rest is drivel!” and took a red pen and scored through. My aunt who was watching this, gave a smirk. “Oh he does this with my writing all the time! Don’t worry, you’ll be fine!” Those dreaded words again!

Anyway, I managed to write a satisfactory statement; and sent in my applications; ended up here in Nashville. I was, apparently, fine!

Did I tell you I never regretted coming to Nashville? But some months after I joined the program here, my dad died and my grad school mentor moved to a different university, there were lots of uncertainty and things were falling apart in every way. A kind person in the department took pity on me and showed me Bruce’s letter – she must have had good reasons to pick that from my file. I don’t remember all or even most of it, but the first sentences said, “I have written exactly two letters of recommendation before this one, and both for students who held a lot of promise and ended up as faculty in top universities. This is the third letter I’m writing….”

And this from Bruce, a graduate of the Institute for Child Development in the University of Minnesota; at the time he wrote that letter he had been faculty for about two decades. Legendary for never writing letters! And he had known me for less than a year!

That day, dear all, Bruce just allowed me to borrow his courage!

Lindsey Krinks – Courage

For June 2016’s theme “Courage,” Tenx9 first-timer Lindsey Krinks tells of courage on the streets, watching her friend Ray fight off death and despair through resilience.

Dry Bones Rattling

Ray, Photo for Tenx9 Story

Tenx9 (ten by nine) is a Belfast-originated monthly storytelling night where 9 people have up to ten minutes each to tell a real story from their lives. This story was told at Nashville’s Tenx9 on June 27th, 2016.

I shuddered when I pulled out the letter from the Cobb County jail in Georgia. I was restless, up again before the sun, so I went to the drawer where I keep my correspondences. I found one of Ray’s letters and unfolded the soft, lined paper. His handwriting was distressed and the letters scrawled across the page as if they were trying to escape. I remembered the last promise he made to me frantically over the phone before he was locked up again, before he wrote this letter. “They’re not gonna take me alive,” he said. “I’ve gotta get back to Nashville. If they try to take me, it’s over.” But they…

View original post 1,317 more words