We live our lives in stories. And so we make changes in our lives by changing our story’s characters, plot lines, themes, and protagonists — a.k.a., ourselves. Hearing others’ stories can inspire hope and strength to carry on and to get better. The i’Mpossible Project is a collection of just such stories, brought together and minimally edited by Josh Rivedal.
I say minimally edited because Rivedal points out that he keeps the integrity of the voice of each storyteller intact. I appreciated this light touch, as it lets each personality come through. The contributing writers — fifty in all — give us straight-up prose, some poetry, and one mini-book.
Rivedal’s own tale is powerful. After his father killed himself when Rivedal was in his early twenties, after a lawsuit from his mother over his father’s estate, and after a break-up with his longterm girlfriend, Rivedal himself began to contemplate suicide. His recovery has included touring as a one-man show called Kicking My Blue Genes in the Butt.
As the name of his play reveals, Rivedal likes to play with words. The book’s title has two meanings: facing impossible situations, and realizing that “I am possible.” The stories Rivedal curates are drawn from people he has met over the years who have faced what felt like impossible situations and were able to come through them.
I liked the structure of the book. There are sections dealing with specific situations — family troubles, physical health issues, trauma, mental health, suicide, LGBT issues, and second chances. Rivedal also includes information on groups and organizations that help with some of the problems the writers touch upon. I found myself listing these as I read so that I can share them with my clients.
The stories are each about three to four pages each. One that touched me the deepest was written by a teacher about a student of his. Called “Jason’s Story,” by Carl Ballenas, it made me think of how often teachers make profound and lasting differences in our lives. Sometimes those differences are positive, sometimes negative. Those powerful figures can boost our self-efficacy and confidence, but they can also damage it deeply. And often, a student can touch a teacher in a deep and lasting way, too.
As Ballenas writes, Jason was a student who was disengaged from school. The story involves frustration balanced with patience and compassion. But I don’t want to give away what happens, because I hope you will read it and feel the impact yourself.
As I read through the collection, I flipped to the back to read each writer’s bio and learn more about them. Overall, I admired and appreciated their courage in telling these very personal and painful stories and in sharing how they have coped and thrived despite quite difficult circumstances.
This is Rivedal’s second book. His The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah is on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s list for recommended reading. And his i’Mpossible Project is a nonprofit media organization doing work to “entertain, educate, and engage on suicide prevention, mental health, diversity, and social change.” I look forward to his upcoming work.
The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You
Skookum Hill Publishing, January 2016
Paperback, 258 pages