Picking which Story Collider experience to write about in celebration of our millionth download was not a difficult choice for me. To my mind, there's one Story Collider story that towers above all the others we've ever done as being the most emotionally resonant, the most narratively compelling, and by far the most personally relevant: the story my wife Rachel told about how we met.
In 2005, I broke Rachel's heart. Granted, she wasn't my wife at the time – in fact, we weren't even dating yet, and that was the source of the heartbreak – but the fact remains that I caused the person I now love most in the world an unbearable amount of pain.
And six years later The Story Collider put out a podcast about it.
The story I'm referring to is "Time and Pressure," by Rachel Bitney Wecht. There's an offhand chance that I might be biased, but I think this is the best story ever. In her (incredible) performance, Rachel describes how (adorably) she and I met, how (bravely) she asked me out, how (cruelly) I rebuffed her, and then how (finally) we started dating and ended up getting married. Rachel's performance really is wonderful, and it's a great story – our story – and I listen to it whenever I'm on the road and want to hear her voice.
But it's not really the easiest thing in the world for me to listen to. In fact, listening to it makes me kind of furious with myself, and that's because one of the central events of the story is when I told Rachel that I couldn't go out with her because I was dating someone else. In the story, Rachel describes how traumatic this was. And having heard the raw version from her in person many times over the almost eight years we've been together, let me just say that the "official" version of her story understates how hard this period in her life was. It was a horrible, horrible time for her, and I really don't know how to describe it other than complete and utter heartbreak.
And although I know I didn't do anything wrong, that if anything, I clearly did the right thing given the circumstances, that decision caused my now-wife to experience one of the worst periods in her life. For that, I will feel forever guilty, and to some extent I won't ever stop beating myself up over it.
But here's the thing. From the point of view of a Story Collider producer, I think that the fact that Rachel experienced a "darkest before the dawn" moment works like gangbusters, and makes the fact that she finally achieved her goal (i.e., me) even more meaningful. If I hadn't been a major player in the events of the narrative, this is exactly the kind of punch-you-in-the-gut stuff I'd want to see in a story. Plus, it's guaranteed to play huge in front of an audience – it's a really sympathetic moment. But as Rachel's husband, it pains me to know that I personally was the cause of one of the most painful periods in her life, even if things did work out in the end.
I love Rachel, and I love The Story Collider. But sometimes what's good for one isn't so great for the other. I guess that, when it comes to Rachel's story, I have to be happy that even though I hurt her, she was able to turn it into a freaking great story, and let us run it on the Story Collider podcast. And for that, I love her even more.
Brian Wecht is the founder and London producer of The Story Collider, as well as a theoretical physicist.