Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

I Used to Be ____________.

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If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. At some point in your life, at some stage in your story, you will feel as everything is too much.

Perhaps it is a hole you dug. Maybe it wasn’t your fault at all. Maybe someone led you there. Maybe it just happened. Either way you are in it well over your head.

It feels like finding yourself in a sand storm that envelopes and covers everything good.

The sky is dark. The sun hidden. Everywhere you look you see brown. Even a dark storm cloud would be a welcome site. But sand fills your mouth and nostrils. You try to drink water, but as you swallow instead of washing away the grit, you choke on it, coughing up more brown.

In this moment there is only darkness. And dryness. And biting wind. And sand.

photo by

photo by Stephan Geyer

The hard part is being in that kind of moment. You tend to look back and be angry about the decisions you made leading to it. You want to find someone to blame, especially somebody besides yourself. You keep wondering “what if?” You replay in your mind certain pivotal decisions, wishing somehow you could change it all.

This moment can be so intense and overwhelming, you lose your ability to see.

Every Good Story

The stories we remember the most have a certain statement in them. The story heads in one direction and then at some point it turns. And the storyteller says:

I used to be _____________.

Think about it. Your favorite movie likely has this moment. Your real-life hero has traveled through such a moment. They used to be one thing, but then something changed and now they are different. And it is this change in them that led to the action that created the beauty and wonder of their story.

What fills the blank varies from person to person.

  • I used to be an orphan.
  • I used to be in so much debt I could never imagine breathing again.
  • I used to be rich, but I found something better.
  • I used to a risk-taker.
  • I used to play it safe.
  • I used to be overweight.
  • I used to be afraid to commit.
  • I used to be too scared to do anything of importance.

To Stir

Writers call this moment an inciting incident. And every good story has one.

An incident is simply an event. But when we use that specific word, we are typically referring to something seemingly minor that leads to something much bigger. The consequences are out of proportion with the event itself.

An example might be the minor occurrence that leads to a war. Or something that happened in history that resulted in being called to the principal’s office.

To incite means “to stimulate or prompt to action.” If you find yourself incited, you can’t help but do. You can’t sit still any longer. You won’t be able to remain quiet. Action will come.

A slightly more poetic definition would be “to stir.”

The Opportunity

Your sand storm is an opportunity. That moment that feels to be too much. The one that makes you pause and wonder where you went wrong. The one filled with regret and pain and fear and despair. The moment when the entire world crashes down on you.

Perhaps the place you find yourself in right now?

This storm is an inciting incident.

This place is an opportunity. A chance to respond. To do. To stir.

It is a chance to make changes, to shift your story, so that one day you will say, “I used to be _____________.”

What is stirring inside of you? What did you “use to be?”

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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23 Replies

  1. Great post, Jeremy, on one of my favorite topics! Love how you explained it “And it is this change in them that led to the action that created the beauty and wonder of their story.” Amen!

  2. “This place is an opportunity. A chance to respond. To do. To stir.” Boom.
    I used to be afraid to share anything of importance.

  3. Yes! Definitely. I got to my late 20s thinking I had made so many well-intentioned but ultimately poor choices that my life was over. Turned out, it wasn’t. 🙂

  4. I loved that word “stir” when I looked up the definition. Glad to hear some “stirring” coming out of you.

  5. I’ve felt the same. Often.

  6. HisFireFly

    Brilliant! I used to be hard hearted – now I am His, and know there are many more “used-to-be’s” to come

  7. I like how you took this another step forward with anticipation of more.

  8. katina vaselopulos

    Jeremy, it seems lately you write with my daughter in mind. What she used to be was unable to see the lies and the deceit from the man she loved until she was strong enough to tear the curtain he had pulled over her eyes. What it used to be brought her where she is…to a good place of self confidence, strength, wisdom, and trust that God has been with her throughout everything. No regrets of not trying hard or long enough or not having good intentions and giving up too fast.

  9. That place she was in can be so hard that in the middle of it you can’t see past it. But I’m glad that she can say “I used to be…”

  10. I used to be a “gonna-doer”. Now I’m a person of action.

  11. I used to be filled with fear. So much that I was in complete denial about it.

  12. I used to think I didn’t have a voice. Now I know I not only have a voice, but it is good, and needed.

  13. What are you full of now? : )

  14. Coffee, hope, joy, guitar and chocolate chip cookies.

  15. Have you heard of this or Karen Purvis?
    Tremendous resource! (Off your blog topic, but up the adoption alley)

  16. Yes. My wife has read the book and speaks highly. It has changed the way we parent. I have yet to read her myself, though.

  17. BrinaHarwood

    I teared up during the first part of your post. That’s how I feel right now and have for a few months. Drowning in sand.
    It seems thought that the last month, specifically, I do feel a call to action. Small actions that push me through to larger ones. I am encouraged by you today. Thank you!

  18. Jennifer

    I am hoping that some day I will use the past tense of “I used to be terrified and angry”.

  19. Read her or watch the videos. We’re going to a conference in Houston later this year.

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