By Arin Forstenzer
Most people have been asked some variation of “What’s your story?” In more professional settings (i.e. job interviews), I have always found it somewhat difficult to respond to the “tell me about yourself” question. Much of my professional experiences, as well as my education, were influenced by my personal experiences outside of those settings.
Imagine explaining to someone that you chose to leave Manhattan to go live in New Orleans, in the fall of 2006 (immediately following Hurricane Katrina). Not exactly the most reasonable sounding decision to most. But it was the decision I made following my campus visit when I was accepted into Tulane University.
I have always found that taking myself out of my own comfort zone is the only way I truly learn something. Leaving Manhattan (and the Northeast) to move to the South offered me lessons far beyond academia. Understanding the variety of cultures within my own country, and listening to, and sometimes embracing ideas I would never have considered before, are among many lessons I learned from leaving my hometown to explore someplace completely new.
When explaining my story to people I meet today, I have found that some people cannot grasp my interest in taking the “less traveled” route, and many of those people tend to look at it in a negative way. Moving to Dallas instead of back to New York City, for example, was a decision that surprised friends of mine from both Tulane and New York. But for better or worse, those decisions have guided me to where I am today, and have allowed me to continue learning much more than I could have ever imagined.
As digital media and technology continue to evolve, people increasingly use the same phones, computers, social networks, and resources. Higher numbers of people have advanced degrees and internship experiences. Because of this, our personal stories become part of a new ‘resume’ that allow us to differentiate ourselves from one another, showing, rather than telling, how we overcame obstacles or how we grew through personal experiences.