TOADTalk: Who Will Tell Your Story?

Ms. Perry on how the most meaningful experiences are often those we share with others.
Monday morning’s All-School Assembly launches with whatever the Teacher On Active Duty (TOAD) wishes to share—a reflection, a story or song, a demonstration of some sort, or a simple poem. In this way, every week of the school year, the community gets to know one of our own a little better. Molly Perry, whose TOADTalk is featured below, chairs the Language Department, teaches Spanish, leads the Community Service program, and coordinates the Senior Exhibition Program. Ms. Perry has worked at the School since 1997.

We’ll start off this morning with a bit of musical trivia. Who can name this song?

Correct. “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” from Hamilton.

Mr. Perry and I had the good fortune of going to see Hamilton a few weeks ago—we purchased tickets before we knew about the full-school extravaganza. Suffice it to say,  it lived up to its reputation. While I went in with slight apprehension about a rap musical (after years of listening to the 104.7 radio station as I chauffeured my girls to innumerable afternoon activities, I still have trouble understanding any of 21 Savage’s lyrics. What is “Bank Account” really about, anyway?), I loved it all. With heartfelt apologies to Mr. Lamb—one of Thacher’s iconic teachers from whom I had the good fortune to take two full years of history—it was clearly the most awe-inspiring history lesson I have ever received. Educational and entertaining—certainly. But, I think what surprised me most was the fact that I found it enlightening, as well. The song Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” resonated most with me.

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

Who tells your story? What a fabulous question.

(A shout out to my feminist friends, as we realize through this song that it is, in fact, Eliza Hamilton who tells this story; by putting herself back in the narrative, by dedicating herself to the reconstruction of his story—their story—the history is revealed.)

So, back to Who Tells Your Story?

This is a question we should all constantly ask of ourselves.

Why? Let me explain: I have had the unfortunate opportunity to write many a condolence letter in my adult years—to friends and family members who have lost a loved one. This is an act that I know serves a purpose, but I always approach it with trepidation, as the blank cards stare me in the face, asking: What can you say at a time like this? My go-to answer involves a late 19th-century Spanish philosopher, Miguel de Unamuno. In his novella Niebla, Sr. Unamuno, the author who cunningly writes himself into his own narrative to ensure his immortality by turning himself into a fictional character, posits that death is, in fact, a two-tiered situation: the first level is when your heart stops, but your second death takes place only after all those who remember you have also passed away. Therefore, as long as memories of you are alive and well, you are, in fact, immortal. What matters then, our legacy, is the connections we make, the lives we touch, the experiences we share with others. The stories we write together. With that in mind, who do I hope will tell my story?

The 1,000 students I’ve taught over the years.
The 150 advisees I’ve mentored.
The almost 200 athletes I’ve coached.
My 67 classmates from the Thacher class of 85.
15 + Special Olympians (the local team hasn’t changed much in the past 18 years).
Friends residing in Ojai, Carpinteria, Madrid, and San Francisco.
Several hundred colleagues.
And, of course, members of the extended Twichell and Perry families.

That’s a lot of people. I’m gonna live forever!

I implore you, therefore, not, as Eliza does at one point in the play, to give in to the temptation to “erase [yourself] from the narrative” by opting out of shared experiences or living for only your own greatest good.

Take Eliza’s questions and apply them to your own lives:

“Who keeps your flame, who remembers your name, who tells your story?
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