2020: Storytelling, Conga Drums, and Emotional Wellness

I didn’t set out to become an author.

When I first began writing about my identity, I wanted a deeper understanding of where I was from, who I was then, and who I am now. I did not know it at the time, but writing memoir is a form of therapy, a way to put the people, places, and events of the past into a perspective that allows us to live out our present in the best possible way.

Not surprisingly, writing my story was one of the most excruciating things I have ever done. It is easy to talk about yourself, but writing a memoir means digging very deep—and who wants to talk about share their vulnerabilities with strangers? In the end I overcame all the millions of reasons why I should not write, because I knew it was bigger than me: this journey of self-exploration is one many of us face, especially those who are struggling to reclaim our identity or figure out where we can truly belong.

Storytelling helps us understand those who are different from us while still encouraging us to reflect on our similarities—we all have the same needs and desires. And it is one of the most important tools that we have to connect the narrative of our lives within the context of belonging to a people. All the more important for those who have felt displaced, even othered, at any point during their lives.

This especially came home to me when I had the opportunity to participate in Stoop Storytelling’s holiday show, which featured stories from people of different backgrounds, reflecting on holiday memories. Inspired by that experience, I am excited about bringing a more personal touch to my work in 2020.

First, I want to infuse Haitian folkloric conga drum music into my storytelling. For the last few months I have been learning folkloric conga drumming, and l plan to compose drumming music following some of the themes of my memoir. These I will incorporate into the audiobook of Twelve Unending Summers, which should be available later this fall. I hope the music will underscore some of my own emotions and reflect back the emotions of the listener, especially their own self-understanding and desire to belong.

At the same time, I want to use my experience as a physician and neuroscientist to approach belonging in a practical way. I am currently working on an e-course guiding people to emotional wellness through brain science. On my brain science blog I talk about some of the tools we can use to achieve lasting emotional wellness; this e-course is my attempt to make this information even more accessible to busy people.

Here’s to a happy and fulfilled 2020!

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