I used to want to be an astronaut, floating above the earth and watching the stars; instead of a story teller, I wanted to be a listener.

My great-grandmother wobbled over to the dining room table every morning to slip her mug in the microwave. She plopped down in the sunlight, dunk her tea bag, and splashed cream into the hot water. In her wobbly voice, she regurgitated the weekly news on politics like she had the day before, and I nodded or loudly answered back in agreement.

The evenings, though, were when her mind switched on and she was exceptionally cognitive. I’d sit across from her in a velvet, worn chair and we’d talk for hours about Grandpa Lacrosse and their cabin on the mountain. “You’re so mature for your age,” she said one day as we sat in the back, gazing at the Pennsylvanian snow. A plump chipmunk shuffled across the pavement and gazed at her, then me. “You remind me of me.”

I used to perceive the world as an outsider, floating above the earth with wide arms and closed eyes. I depended on satellites; I absorbed information, but I did not reflect them back to the people beneath me. I was external.

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Before cancer took him away, Matt liked to talk about his days as a color guard in high school. And when he wasn’t talking about them, he gazed at his coffin in the living room with ferocious intensity, as if he challenged it to swallow him. When he visited the day of my Prom, I listened to his memories of his friends, of his competitions. “Thank you for making me feel alive,” he told me. The sentence caught in his throat, and the astronaut inside me wavered.

Bishop Mark, the man who, over the years, became more of a grandfather to me than a bishop, reminisced of his days as a student in Rome. Tears pooled down his cheeks as he remembered the man who taught him that theology is learned through lives as well as scripture. The stories he told me made my heart swell, and I felt as if I needed to do something with them.

When my great-grandmother died in 2016, I began telling stories rather than just simply listening to them. Stories include memories and experiences– the world’s most valuable commodities. With experience comes knowledge, and with knowledge comes wisdom. So I gather these stories in my mind for the sole purpose of telling others. I write them down in poems, in prose; I photograph them. Something tugs at the soul when you connect to another soul. I want to grant others this feeling of connection.

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Years ago, I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to observe people from the outside. Now, I am internal; I am human. I am a writer.