When I was 12, I stood shivering outside my class. It was January in Toronto and I had returned to school after spending the holidays at my grandparents’ house in New Delhi. There, I ate peeled almonds and honey under the lemon trees on the veranda, hand-picked mangoes from the vegetable cart and headed to the bazaar in the late afternoon sun, eating papri chaat and shopping for red and gold bangles.

I remember thinking how rich my experience was and writing about it. I went on to study journalism, taught in Japan, Cambodia and Burma, and now work in the field of diversity and inclusion.

Everyone has a story to tell. And if you Google yourself, you’ll realize that yours is already being told.

But what if we seize back our stories, imagine our life in chapters and thread them together? What would your personal narrative be?

Work is changing

We no longer live in a world where people work at the same company for very long. A 2018 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that employees ages 25-34 had a median tenure of 2.8 years, while workers ages 55-64 had a median tenure of 10.1 years.

The gig economy, job hopping, job layoffs and other setbacks are the new reality. Jobs of the future may not even exist yet. What will set us apart is not our titles, but our choices and circumstances that create our unique lens of the world.

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Tell your story your way

When I’m with my family and friends, I share my stories, my ups and my downs. They’re not simple, they’re complicated. They’re not about my goals, they’re about my lessons. And they don’t follow a straight and linear path.

So what makes a personal narrative powerful?

For one, it’s about passion and showing why you did what you did. It’s also about vulnerability, which can be a strength and a catalyst for change. Finally, it’s about delivery and captivating an audience.

Diversity, inclusion and stories

Recently, I watched Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford commencement speech from 2005. I realized that even in if you have a story, not everyone has a stage from which to tell it. It’s not enough to have a personal narrative — others must be willing to engage with it.

As our workplaces become more diverse and inclusive, I take the time to be curious, learn about others and listen actively.

Instead of gravitating to people I’m told are interesting, I assume everyone is interesting.

We all have a story to tell, and the time has come for the world to listen.

Diya Khanna, columnist for Seattle Times Explore
Diya Khanna, columnist for Seattle Times Explore