Conversations in our house often revolve around the strengths and powers of superheroes – it is part of daily life with a nine-year-old boy. During these discussions, I realized that each Superhero has an origin story, a narrative to explain how they came into being. It is, in essence, the background behind their strengths and motives – a critical element to why they possess that particular super power. This struck a chord with me – we all have an origin story. While we may not be Amazon warrior princesses fighting for peace like Wonder Woman, we do have a unique story that serves as a foundation of the person we are becoming.
Finding your origin story is a journey and one that is inherently mysterious – not neatly wrapped up in an introductory paragraph or two – but don’t let that deter you. It is a lifelong process of knowing where you come from, in the broadest of senses, and it allows you to create your best life moving forward.
I fundamentally believe that we must know our past to live our most authentic present and future.
It has been a joy for me to find small clues and piece together my origin story. In a way, I think we do this naturally, trying to learn more about who we are. However, framed in this way – as an origin story – it has given me a fresh perspective and more inclination to search.
In one way, my story can be traced back to ancient Greece, with the meaning of my name, Melissa, which is translated as “bee.” According to Greek mythology, Melissa was a nymph who discovered and taught the use of honey. She represented the potency of nature and she came to care for the infant Zeus. In more practical ways, my story has humble beginnings on farms in the Midwest and Kentucky. I am the great-granddaughter of immigrants and farmers who worked the land, the granddaughter of educators who also bravely served their country during times of war.
This idea of an origin story draws me to my past – to gain a sense of perspective of where I’ve come from – it’s a foundation for my own sense of self and purpose as I navigate this world. Much as an old tree with deep roots stands solidly amongst the winds and changing seasons, these roots of my history provide a deep, quiet, steadfast sense of presence. I am especially interested in the women who came before me, many of whom I never met and have only vaguely heard about. They are connected to me, through blood and marriage, their stories helping to create my story. I am always grateful for small, but meaningful glimpses into their lives through old photos, stories, or in rare instances – letters/ journals in their own handwriting. (I’ve written about the journal of one relative here.)
Origin stories are not always happy, there are often tragedies or painful secrets woven in. This is the beauty of the origin story – it serves as a guide for who you are, but it can also be a tool or a resource. Allow yourself to recognize the pain, joy, beauty, and sorrow of the past – acknowledge it and then move forward.
It is not where you stay, it is where you begin.
Ultimately, your origin story provides you the foundation to know where you have come from and what you are made of, and then it’s your opportunity to choose; consciously and intentionally your next steps in this life. It’s a starting point, not meant to keep you trapped in a cycle of sadness or regret, rather to focus on the strengths and then have a reference point for your story – your life.
I am just beginning to fully put together the pieces of my origin story. I expect it to evolve and grow in scope. I will continue to ask questions of my elders, search for clues, and add to this story slowly, but surely. I might never know the aspirations or joys of those who came before me, but I know that by living out my true purpose, I am a living expression of those in my personal history. We live in a time that our ancestors could not have imagined, a time of incredible change and challenges. This makes it all the more meaningful to have a strong foundation and step into the future with a sense of purpose and confidence that you are on your right path.