by Shreya Thatai, Team Leader for team North Shore
By tomorrow, it will have been 18 days since I left home and began the adventure that is Climate Summer. Each day has felt like simultaneously a full month and just a single moment. The impact of this is that throughout the afternoon, I feel exhausted from the trainings and debriefs, yet lie awake in the Pawtucket Congregational Church sanctuary every night wondering when and how another day had already ended.
As a full group of 22 Climate Summer riders, we have only three more days together before we split up by team and bike to our respective communities. Reflecting, I think every time I have had the fortune to find myself in a new stimulating community such as this one, I have been genuinely surprised to realize the capacity I have to love others. I have spent less than three weeks with these people but it feels heartbreaking to think about separating for the rest of the summer. And it’s because I rarely am surrounded by people so truly passionate about one thing – in our case, building relationships.
Yes. Building relationships. While climate change is our cause and our fight, every single person here is passionate about getting to know every other single person here. Whether that is through a séance-like circle of late night storytelling around a candle in the grass or a discussion of religion that morphs to explore conservatism and liberalism through various lenses at the kitchen table, we have all been trying desperately to learn the most we can about each other.
An element of our work is the personal narrative. Not only learning how to tell our own stories of how we found ourselves involved in the climate justice movement but also how to teach others how to tell their own stories. In my life thus far, I have always enjoyed hearing other people speak of themselves and trying to figure out how it is that they think. But after sitting and discerning different elements of a story and reflecting on how the many parts of my own life have combined to bring me to where I am now, I have found a new value to storytelling.
Not only is it an incredibly effective way to separate and compartmentalize massive sections of memories and force ourselves to organize our thoughts into progressions that comprehensible to others, but storytelling is also a way to gain a large amount of subtle knowledge about the people that surround us. The way people tell their personal stories tells us about how they view themselves and how they think that they as individuals fit into the grander scheme of society, what they value, and gives us a glimpse of just how much life each person has within themselves to share with others.
So perhaps that is why I am so relentless in my pursuits of stories from others even if I rarely reciprocate with my own; because never before have I seen such value in storytelling or in the group of people I am trying to better understand. Perhaps that is why every night, I lay in my sleeping bag reflecting on the stories I heard that day and try to parse out what I learned from each.
Let me end with one of my favourite quotes: “Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.” – Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters.
This is only true if we all take the time to reflect in order to create stories that create a space for us to connect and deeply listen to one another, and I do mean deeply –without any distractions, selfish thoughts, or ulterior motives, but listening to others speak just to listen. And if this quote true, and I honestly believe that it is, then based on my company, I simply must be the luckiest person.