Every once in a while, I like to step back from our ongoing explorations of self-knowledge, self-expression, and what it means to live a “self-storied” life, to re-introduce myself to you.
My name is Dave Ursillo, and I like to call myself a writer.
As a person who has known many interests, titles, identities, and experiences in his life, at the end of the day I tend to just call myself “a writer” because, in my soul, it’s the experience of being a writer that has, for most of my adult life, felt essential to my “being” as a human.
Outside of identifying as a writer, though, I also identify as…
- A white, cisgender, heterosexual male of European ancestry and upper-middle-class upbringing
- A highly sensitive person (HSP) with sensory processing sensitivity (SPS)
- A recovering perfectionist/high achiever, a privileged person, a coffee lover, a former yogi, a sometimes-poet, a basic white dude who thinks he can dance better than he actually can, and someone who acts quite playfully when he’s not brooding or contemplating the meaning of life
(This short video recap of 2022 on Instagram will prove my point about the dance moves!)
But why, really, are we here?
The answer, again, goes back to writing.
The art, practice, and experience of writing have long represented an important gateway into my earliest inklings of self-understanding, starting especially in my early 20s (even though the seeds of my love of writing began when I was an adolescent). Since then, writing has helped me to learn myself. To access myself. To be myself.
And that, to me, has always been very precious.
When I was younger, especially, writing was an outlet that helped me to feel a little less lost in the world; a little less burdened by the question of “what I was to ‘do’ with my life”; a little less confused, frustrated, alone, or misunderstood by others, which I frequently felt as a sensitive person (and a sensitive man in a toxic-masculine society).
Writing was what first gave me an opportunity to express myself, privately and safely, and to be a witness to myself. Words on a page acted like a mirror and, from them, I was able to slowly develop a sense of self-concept that I felt I struggled for throughout much of my adolescence and young adulthood.
Writing brought me to myself, and for that, I will always hold it near and dear to my heart.
These days, I don’t center my entire life or all of my work around writing — so if you’re not into writing, that’s cool! I won’t be offended, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to change your mind about writing or journaling if it isn’t for you.
And yet, why we’re here still has a lot to do with writing, literally and figuratively.
Literally, this newsletter is arriving in your inbox because I have been a professional writer, an author, a writing and self-expression coach, and a teacher of creativity for most of my 14 years(!) of self-employed life.
But figuratively, I believe that we all are “writers” and “authors” of “the stories of our lives.”
By that, I mean that we each possess some element, some choice, some inherent power as individual persons to be the authors of the stories of our lives. Through our choices, our deeds, our words, our presence, and how we engage with the world and others around us, we become our own stories’ tellers.
Ever since 2009, when I quit my job and left a young career in public service, I have been making my way in the world to live what I call a self-storied life — and to help others do the same, in their own ways.
Today, my primary work and mission revolve around this sole idea:
“Helping others to live the stories that they want to be telling.”
For some, their “story” may include writing or creativity in a professional or career sense (like, wanting to write a book, or learning how to craft poignant and meaningful personal narrative essays, as I have for years and now teach).
For others, putting pen to paper (or typing on a screen) can be a super helpful resource in a personal capacity, such as for developing self-awareness, articulating a story of your experiences, making sense of your past, expressing yourself in self-honoring ways, or seeking greater connection with others.
I believe that, as Rumi said, there are “hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground,” or countless ways and opportunities for us to experience meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and joy in the everyday, as we see fit. There is no one right way into self-understanding, presence, mindful self-awareness, or peace.
In my work today, I hope to be a catalyst, a guide, a companion, a supporter, and a facilitator to your growth, awareness, understanding, and self-realization — in whatever ways feel appropriate, honoring, and enlivening for you.
So, what shape does my work take these days, and why?
In addition to writing essays and telling stories as I do here in my newsletter — which is a passion for me, an important personal practice, and a relationship-based marketing tool — my day-to-day work takes shape as:
— A coach. As an experienced coach of over 10 years, I take on the role of guide and supporter in a client-centered approach to help professional helpers, creatives, aspiring authors, storytellers, and small biz owners holistically change habits, start or restart new practices, develop self-awareness, build creative projects, and experience their work with greater purpose and meaning.
In real terms, I blend life coaching and career coaching with writing, journaling, authorship, and self-expression practices, combining accessible cognitive behavioral techniques with narrative theoretical principles, enveloping clients in a holistic, sustainable, and rewarding personal growth experience.
— A teacher and facilitator. As a teacher and facilitator, I host larger groups (online and occasionally in person) for positive learning experiences in the form of classes, courses, and programs, all in constructive, communal social atmospheres.
Most programs are designed to help lifelong learners, self-starters, and professional helpers develop new skills, access parts of themselves (like creativity) that feel stuck or closed, and channel their curiosity, intentions, desires, and beliefs into healthy and rewarding expressions.
Tip: One of my favorite classes, Writing the Personal, on personal narrative essay writing and storytelling, is coming back this February! Get a jump on the details now.
— A podcaster. A passion project born of my never-ending curiosity, knowledge-seeking, and commitment to uncovering the truths that govern our world (and our lives, within it), as a podcaster, interviewer, and host of The New Story Is, I speak with select experts, academics, authors, change-makers, and storytellers who are championing the new stories of what our world could, and perhaps should, become.
Spurred on by deep concerns about how so many people seem to our world, their lives, and our existence (without meaning or purpose), my podcast is another outlet of exploration that is also hopefully educational, entertaining, intellectually stimulating, and engaging.
Tip: You can listen, follow or subscribe on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, so you never miss a new episode.
— A graduate student (and future mental health counselor). One of the things I’ve been a bit quieter about has been that I’m a full-time graduate student, enrolled in a Master of Arts program, and studying Holistic Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
I began the program in September of 2021 and I’m on track to graduate in May 2024 as I pursue becoming a mental health counselor in the coming years.
My years’ worth of experiences as a coach, a yoga teacher, and a teacher of self-expression have shown me the vital importance of mental health — and how drastically underserved and under-supported so many of us are.
After the last 14 years of this self-storied journey, my “story” in the years ahead will continue with writing, storytelling, teaching, and coaching, and will go on to add mental health counseling into the mix. I’m very eager and grateful for the opportunity to go on to support the “stories” of the lives of more people in these new ways.
So, that’s me, folks!
At least, that’s the story, for now.
After all, we’re always growing and evolving and changing as human beings.
One of life’s most beautiful aspects, to me, is that we all exist in this strange and exhilarating process of “self-losing” and “self-finding” — a dynamic or interplay that, as you’ll recall, is one way I like to conceptualize the idea of “self-knowledge.”
A journey of forgetting to remember.
An experience of shedding and becoming.
A cycle of asking “Who am I, again?” before going on to offer, “Oh yes, and hello, this, now, is who I am.”
This is the art of self-storying as a practice: an ongoing, never-ending conversation with the stories of our lives, and remembering that we are all active participants in our stories’ tellings.
We are our stories’ authors.
So write the story of your life, in your own way, today.