The stories we tell, versus the stories told about us

We’ve just celebrated our 103rd guestagrammer at

It’s a project that began in January 2016, as a way to step into each other’s shoes, to close the gap in our own ability to imagine the lives of our neighbours. I’ve been so heartened and fulfilled by the experiment. I’ve developed friendships and relationships out of it, because over the course of 7 days, people shared enough of themselves that I came to know them beyond the most superficial transactional interaction I typically had with them. But it has been entirely unexpected.

You see, I wanted to understand the reality (read: pain and suffering) of my neighbours’ lives, so I anticipated learning first-hand from Lil’wat guestagrammers how hard it is to be a First Nations person. After all, if you pick up the newspaper, you are bombarded with tales of woe, dysfunction, darkness from indigenous communities all across the country.

And I assumed that my non-Lil’wat neighbours would probably share more of their highlights than their hustle, which is kind of the unspoken rule of instagram, and what makes it such a slippery dangerous vortex.

I had hoped it would be a forum for us to show up, and see each other. But I made assumptions about what “showing up” means.

I wish I didn’t carry around so many assumptions. But I do. It’s part of my programming. A result of all the media and stories I intentionally and unintentionally consumed in the first 40 years of my life. Acknowledging that is my first step. Trying to explore, be curious, challenge it, follows on its tail.

What I’ve noticed is that the takeovers that have really stood out for me, have been when people shared their struggles. By which I mean, specifically, when my non-native guestagrammers, have come out from behind the story of perfect lives, demonstrated real vulnerability and courage and expressed that things can be tough. Shared their pain. Because the dominant media narrative that oppresses those in the dominant culture, is this constant need to be perfect. The truth-baring posts have resonated so deeply with so many of our followers ad community members. It’s as if we share this deep longing to be able to admit that it’s not always easy. That the stories laid on top of us are a real burden. What we’d like to share is that we aren’t always doing so great.

By contrast, the dominant media narrative doesn’t often showcase the pride, success and strength of First Nations people. When armed with the chance to tell their story, themselves, their way, it strikes me that our Lil’wat guestagrammers have wanted to showcase their work, their families, their skilful art and photography, the things they feel proud of.

I love, and am so grateful for the way people are showing up – in whatever way they wish to show themselves. It’s an ongoing joy, and learning experience, and it makes me think, the more people we love, the better we get at loving. Because, frankly, it’s hard not to love someone when they invite you to walk with them for a week, when they offer you a glimpse at their pain, and/or their pride. After all, we’re all a great swirling mix of both. And we need to shift our assumptions aside, and hold space for the richness and complexity of that, in everyone we encounter.

Thank you, guestagrammers. Keep telling your stories, your way.


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