“The narrative is, of course, the most fantastic of voyages” -John Wood

I love a good story. Not the one you find in a bookstore but the one you find in the lives being lived by some of the bravest people: those going after their dreams.

Characters such as the seasoned overcomer, the brave pioneer, the fortitudinous gypsy, the bare-knuckled climber, the vagrant pilgrim, and the valiant survivor—all of these are the inspiration behind my art, my leadership, my professional goals, and my brand. My passion for our lives as narratives is what drives me to make, create, write, lead, and contribute. It’s why I tell others to write their narratives. We may be totally unaware of what life is doing in us until we pick up a journal and read what we overcame or survived ten years down the line. The endurance and strength of the human spirit intrigues me.

My appreciation for narrative started to develop five years ago. Up until my father’s announcement that he no longer wanted a family I’d never paid attention to my life as a story built upon by strategic events that would make my character more dynamic. I thought that with hard work, drive, passion, and integrity I would eventually end up where I saw myself. I never took the custom structuring of narrative into consideration—what I would need to go through to be the person I saw when I reviewed my vision. Sure, a bad thing might happen here or there but life-altering, psyche-rattling, faith-shaking, world-crashing events? I never factored those into the equation.

My parents’ divorce, countless tears, 10 months separated from my mother, parting with 80% of my possessions, a bout with homelessness, and many more unexpected chapters later, I now see everything I discounted when compiling my life plans: The cost of my vision; the narrative that would shape me.

Whether because of fear or innocent planning I think so many times we tend to discredit the narratives shaping us such that we forget there is beauty in what I call the “en route” spaces. Loss, hurt, failure, bludgeons, sacrifices and hardships all have their place in our narratives.

As finite beings we have no way of knowing specifically what is necessary to happen in our lives to carve out of us the capacity to handle what we wish for; beings able to arrive at destinations to which we see ourselves en route. We can miss being shaped by our narratives if our focus is on destination and arrival and we forget the departure necessary to make a journey.

The narrative is not wonderful because it’s easy. It’s wonderful because of all we discover in ourselves when we endure that through which we never thought we could. How we handle our narrative determines whether we’ll live as brave, individual voices or mass-produced slaves in the throng of mediocrity.

Thus we learn: Life is not about arrival, it’s about how we view the events we’d call setbacks, interruptions, life altering, or destructive, and functioning constructively in each of those circumstances. God has made us dynamic characters too special to wake up one morning with every good and perfect material gift laying at our feet. Being shaped by our narratives is our allowing Him to add depth to our souls and finesse in the design of our lives so we not only have things but we have substance.

What good is it to have something if you have no story to support your having it? What good is it to arrive to a place if you cannot say where you’ve come from? What good is it to have things if you’re nothing when it’s all gone? We cannot balk our narratives. We must let them shape us.

Once I allowed my narrative to shape me I was freed to work diligently, see clearer, and find some measure of direction for my next steps. I became satisfied not only with who I am but-oddly - with the ugliness of my journey. Because my focus shifted to what the narrative is doing IN me and not to how being en route makes me look. It has allowed me to receive the gift of identity and art.

The inspiration of our narratives is the inspiration behind my new perspective in photography and my indie business, Vagabroad Journals. Everything we go through takes us into a new place where we are confronted by new language, culture, currency, and norms. We are all triple and quadruple citizens of hardships and struggles, rough times and barely good days. But each of us has a blessing in the narratives that shape us: custom stories only our work, art, skills, or words can tell, should we choose to embrace them.

Our narratives are amazing; they’re beautiful! And we are all so well traveled. Everything we’ve persevered through is a place that is an indelible part of our journey, stamp on our lives’ passport, and portion of our narrative. Isn’t it amazing?

Let your narrative craft in you the person you need to be to arrive to where you envision yourself.

Journey Soulfully,
I love you,

Chimene A. Jackson


Hana Elise here.

Working musician/singer/songwriter in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

I swore to myself I would never move here, until I realized that there is this crazy young art community with a passion for film, photography, music, food, and much more. The sheer mass of connections is incredible in such a small town. All of my housemates, neighbors, and co workers are musicians, painters, writers, graphic designers, chefs, and they are all building/from the ground up, the type of Harrisburg they want to see via there own businesses/projects.

There is nothing that helps you grow more than other working artists who are young, sometimes poor, yet passionate and intelligent people who keep busy and keep inspired. I realized I could do a lot more with this group of people backing me and lending to my success and in exchange I could help them using my musicality. I never thought that I would end up here, but I am incredibly glad I did, and I feel that this is a stop on the way to something great that I cannot quite put my finger on just yet.

There is room for success and room for error and I am three months into living here, but I have more gigs than I ever had, and more new connections and artistic projects than ever. I continue to write and perform, I work at Little Amps Coffee Roasters a blooming business run by Aaron Carlson and the ideal job.

I think the moment I realized how much I love the creativity and support this community offers was when I was sitting in Little Amps after hours for a music venue. It was a full house and I had the chance to listen and revel in my neighbors music. Cayote’s set was followed by this incredible group of musicians from Mississippi called the Illilogical Spoon. I was sitting in my place of work/listening to these people doing exactly what they wanted to do their way and I was so impressed and rejuvenated.

That’s what I want to bring to the table, and wherever you may be on your way to whatever it is that inspires you and makes you feel alive it’s so important to realize that you are not alone in your pursuits and to network because you will be inspired and impressed by so many people who have their own set of talents and are in pursuit of their own dreams.