Your Data is the Story



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As I was working on my lab report earlier today, I spent some time reading the question board. Puzzled, a student asked a question about the data they collected, “They don’t make sense to me.” And right below I see the instructors reply, “Work with the data you have, whether they make sense or not. You aren’t to fit your data to a preconceived story—your data is the story.”
Previous experiences we had in our life are what we use to form narratives that we rely on for survival. Like a child that curiously decides to touch the hot stove even when they’re told not to, experience shapes us. We use our experiences as evidence to navigate our way into this world. Narratives help us survive.
But they can also be very much flawed. Many of the narratives we rely on have solidified from our early childhood experiences. And we can continue to view the world through the lens of stories we formed at the age of 5, 10, or 13.
When we try to make sense of what is, we are trying to figure out how it fits into a preconceived story. And we know we’re safe when something is familiar; when something makes sense.
But familiarity does not always equate to safety. Counterintuitively, if we aren’t used to what truly is best for us, we may feel repulsed. And we have to actively work against our physiology to rewire and challenge the existing narratives we have solidified from our early stages of life.
When we bring in our subjective lens to form an opinion or make a decision about someone or something, we are relying on what we know. And what we know is not always the most informed.
Some things don’t have to make sense. And I don’t know about you, but I’m glad some things don’t make sense to my 5 year old self.
In certain contexts, we may be doing a disservice to ourselves when we try to make sense of what is. Because in the process of doing so, we may lose the opportunity to learn a new story—perhaps something more fulfilling and expansive. We can let go of narratives that no longer serve us. We would benefit a lot more by seeking to understand something or someone for what is, not for how we think they should be.
So the next time something doesn’t make sense, ask yourself what preconceived story it doesn’t fit—and maybe try to make space for a new one. Your data is the story.
With love,
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Reema AlYousef

sharing stories and exploring human emotion

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