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The stories we tell ourselves

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A personal reflection on meaning-making and storytelling about the Mets

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

I am afraid. I am in denial. Game 1 of the World Series is tomorrow night, but I can't quite reckon with the Mets being in it. It doesn't feel real. What this is—this inability to "let in" the reality of the Mets being in the World Series—is, I think, a defense mechanism: Right now, I am irrationally afraid of how the Mets being in the World Series is going to change things for us.

This is silly, though. The World Series is the ultimate showdown. This is what we all root for; this is the dream. This is what we have been waiting many long years to see. So what gives? What the hell is wrong with me?

As best as I can tell, it all comes down to storytelling. To be human is to be both a storyteller and a subject to the power stories wield. Stories help us maintain our sense of identity and belonging; they help us remember, learn from, and interpret life's events; and they help us connect with other people. As time passes and our understanding of the world grows more complex, so do our stories. Or perhaps we cling to some of our old tales like a security blanket. Either way, a compelling storyteller is one who carefully sifts through piles of information and strings together those bits that, presented in a certain way, deliver the point. There is a craft there. And I think I'm being crafty with the stories I'm telling myself about myself and the Mets, because the facts no longer bear them out—not the way I've been telling them to myself, anyway.

One of the great things about facts and data is that they reveal the truth. Accordingly, facts and data demand attention: To willfully ignore them and to obstinately hold tight to a debunked narrative for the sake of maintaining the status quo is a little dishonest. Facts and data demand that we write new stories—or at least update the old ones.

This is more complicated than it sounds, though. Our team, after all, is a proxy for our own successes and failures, a blank screen upon which we project very personal meaning. The universe of the Mets—however good or bad the team happens to be—is a community of which I am a part, and a reassuring totem in the relentless tide of life. Those of us who care deeply—or, perhaps, care too much—can't help but interweave the stories of our teams and the stories of our lives. That's a powerful brew.

So as I watch our team make final preparations and press conferences and merchandise releases for the World Series, and, despite myself—despite my elation, my laughter, my tears, and my obsession with this postseason—I am out of the moment altogether: I am time-traveling and reminiscing in my mind.

It's late 1999. I am 19 years old and trying to fight my way back from the first major failure of my life. I am also in the grips of a brutal depression, although I don't know that's what it is—I just assume I am paying the miserable price for being no good. I can't connect to much of anything, and little makes sense. But the Mets are there. The Mets make sense. They help me feel hopeful; they help me feel excited about something; they help me feel like I can make it if I hang on.

Now it's 2006. I am 25, turning 26, and the Mets are steamrolling the National League in a way I can't really remember having ever seen or appreciated. My life is going pretty well, too. I'm living in Queens, I've got a job to pay the bills, and I'm getting acting gigs—and getting better and better as I go. My dream of "making it" seems like it might actually happen. The future is full of possibility.

It's 2010. I just turned 30, and the Mets are bad. It doesn't feel real; I've been kind of numb since the second collapse of 2008 and the parade of injuries in 2009. But I can't get too involved right now: I'm moving back upstate to start grad school—I'm not acting any longer—and a new chapter in my life. I have my sights set on settling down there and getting involved somehow in helping the region turn the corner. Omar Minaya gets the boot, Sandy Alderson gets hired, and I know—I know—that here, finally, is where things start to get better for the long run.

It's early 2012, and I am exhausted. My plans from two short years ago are nothing but a strange and uncomfortable memory. I've been through a divorce, I'm nearly finished with the relentless, sleepless grind of grad school, and I'm ready to do something different. The Mets' Opening Day outfield comprises Jason Bay, Andres Torres, and Lucas Duda: quelle horreur! I graduate and am relieved. Johan Santana pitches a no-hitter, and I am elated. Riding that wave, I pack my stuff into a U-Haul and drive west to Denver with the woman who would eventually become my wife.

And now here I am. Here we are. The Mets are in the World Series. It's feeling a little more real now. It's feeling like this is the natural, logical next step in the story. I guess I just had to re-tell it to myself.

The Mets are an inextricable piece of our lives, aren't they? They are a counterbalance, or a springboard, or an anchor, or a blazing sunrise. They are different things to each of us, at different times in our lives. Universally, though, they are there for us, reflecting something of ourselves back into our own hearts and minds. The Mets are in the World Series, and we are, too. What a nice story.