To start her essay “The White Album,” Joan Didion starts with, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” That sentence, that declaration of what is this thing stories do in our heads has stuck with me. It makes me wonder what is it really that we’re trying to do when we sit in classroom or stand at the front of them. I’ve been very fortunate to have great teachers. One of them, Doug Unger, I wrote briefly about at the Double Down Blog, “What Our Teacher Taught Us.”

There I try to talk about a teacher I have in person. Flesh and ponytail. Joan Didion, on the other hand, with that striking her opening to “The White Album,” echoes between my ears and seems to find its way into my opening lines. Her voice lingers. It teaches. Blows my mind.

In order to live, we need to tell ourselves stories: because a world without stories would be too terrible to bear.

That is dark. Striking. Yet, now, I keep thinking of that line when I think of teaching. Whether I talk about my teachers or I try to write a teaching philosophy in order to apply for teaching jobs.

We need to, in order to live, tell ourselves stories.

When we tell others stories, do they live better? When we tell stories within the walls of classrooms, do they live more happily?

I don’t know. Just something that’s been banging around in my head.

Thinking about teachers