As I help students write professional signature stories, I remember that all good stories show transformation. That’s what a story is. Something changes. Someone changes.
As I coach students applying to college, I remind them that essays show transformation. Who were you? What happened? How did you change?
I love asking students to think of what causes the most personal transformation. It’s not always trauma or loss, either. Encounters with beauty, sublime experiences in nature, and connections with characters in literature usher in as much transformation as the pain in our lives. We look to joy and disappointment in equal parts.
I also love thinking about times of change or transition when a person’s environment changes and it forces transformation somehow. Those stories intrigue me because I enjoy thinking about how physical locations influence identity. How would a landscape transform a person?
So we continue to mine our lives to look for evidence of what transformed us.