Telling Your Story, Claiming Your Life

Telling Your Story, Claiming Your Life

by Richard Gold, Pongo’s Founder

Pongo has a story, and it’s about sharing stories. It’s about how people change after creating their stories, and how others are changed in the process of listening to what we say. To look at these processes together tells us something rich and essential about who we are. But to look at the source of our story can also tell us something about the pain in understanding.

Even before we can frame our own story, we are the object of others’ stories. Over and over in teen writing, Pongo hears that, perhaps from birth, perhaps covertly, a teen was told that others don’t want her to be strong and happy. One burden of this inherited story is that it serves the deeply felt need of a person the child cares deeply about. One burden of this inherited story is that the child feels responsible for a loved one’s pain, and feels unlovable herself. From Pongo, there is Joey’s story in “Parents,”


by Joey (age17)

Sometimes they’re there for you
like they’re supposed to be
Sometimes they’re not
Once in a while
you have somebody to talk to
Sometimes you don’t
Sometimes you have somebody
to cook dinner for you
Sometimes you don’t
Sometimes you have parents that
will be there for you
Sometimes you don’t

If you want to have good parents,
make sure you’re good to them

When I was 7, my mom gave me a choice,
to live with her or with my aunt
I chose my aunt
And when I asked to come back,
my mom wouldn’t take me
Maybe I was bad to her,
I won’t know until I see her again
It hurts when I stop and think about it
But I know one day I’ll be able
to see her again
But I just have to leave it to
the guy upstairs

Joey’s mom gave him the choice when he was seven to live with his aunt. Joey made this choice, and Mom then blamed Joey for rejecting her. She refused to see him again. Joey felt and feels terrible. It is in our nature as children to become others’ stories.

Also, before we can frame our own story, we are the object of society’s stories, where every social group, including our own, protects its emotional vulnerabilities with a story of who we are. These stories often feature a message of unworthiness about those who are different, a message that masks our own insecurities.

How amazing it has been for me to find Pongo’s story — about how simple it can be to write a transformative vision of ourselves. (How simple it can be, but not easy.) If we write from the heart about the circumstances of our lives, especially the singular moments that affected us deeply, this heartfelt truth has the power to be a new reality. Interestingly, we don’t have to glorify ourselves or blame anyone else for our troubles. We just have to speak our own internal truth.

I think this transformative power in writing is the common power of our humanity. It is so powerful that, even when we are hurting, we can recognize the humanity in ourselves. When we write from the heart about our feelings, we see a version of ourselves that can feel better and take more control. We are changed — both the writer and the listener.

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