In late March, Concordia College hosted The Campus Tell. The Campus Tell is where students, faculty, and staff can share their raw stories to a crowd. The Campus Tell happened due to the original collaboration, The Tell of Fargo (same concept except with the citizens of Fargo). When telling stories, no notes, props, or performances can be utilized when sharing. The individual has six minutes to share their personal story with the community.
When Bruce Vieweg, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs of Concordia College, came by with a hat full of names and asked if I wanted to throw my name in the hat with the rest of the storytellers, I vigorously shook my head no. I am a journalist, I tell stories through written word, not spoken.
This meeting’s theme was “lesson learned”; thus, the stories had to be centered around a lesson he or she had learned in their lifetime. Students began to tell their stories. Some stories were light and funny—dropping laundry detergent down six flights of stairs. Other stories held a deeper theme—the profoundness of a poor child buying a well-off citizen gum.
The first three speakers were members of the speech team. As they gracefully told their stories, I reassured myself that withholding from telling a story was a great idea.
As more students let down their guard and shared their experiences with a group of people they hardly knew, I found myself laughing, sympathizing, reminiscing, lamenting as they told their variations of the lessons they have learned. If their stories could develop these emotions inside me, what emotions could I generate inside my listeners? My story of a “lesson learned” inched farther and farther up from my soul to the tip of my tongue, itching to be told.
I refused to throw my name in the hat still.
Next, a young woman came up to the microphone. She had long blonde hair; a white blouse with a green skirt; and big, blue eyes. She looked like your typical college student.
Then her story started to pour out of her mouth, the words circled around the room as she described her experiences with battling depression and the lessons she learned while residing at a psych ward. Audience members sat at the edge of their seats, their hearts reaching out to cradle her as she relives the difficult times. Near the end of her beautiful story, tears welled in her eyes.
She completely exposed herself about a mental illness she battled and won over. Yet, I couldn’t tell my story that didn’t even compare in vulnerability as hers did…
The next name drawn brought a young man to the front. He informed us that he is a science major, so storytelling isn’t his forte and the only reason he put his name in the hat was to support his friend. He then went on to tell the tale of a crazy party he went to during his sophomore year at college.
Yes, it wasn’t the most eloquent told story of the evening, but he still made us laugh and think about our crazy, drunken adventures. That’s the beauty behind storytelling, it doesn’t have to be perfect to bring forth an emotion, create an image, or retrieve memories from the listener’s mind.
Yet, a science major with no storytelling experience had more guts than me, a storyteller by profession, to put his name in the hat and speak in front of a crowd. Wow.
As I walked back to my dorm, I voiced the story I would have told in my head over and over again. I thought of places I could have inserted dramatic pauses, vivid imagery, and emotion. By the time I had walked in my room, I kicked myself for keeping quiet.
Why didn’t I throw my name in the hat? What’s so wrong with sharing a story out loud?
The story I would have told addresses the breakup with my first love and the one lesson I learned from it (even though I learned an infinite amount of lessons from that ordeal). My story would have opened up sores I have taken so long to heal. My story would have exploited my weaknesses. My story would have shown how I made a foolish mistake.
My story would have made me vulnerable to a group of people—my biggest fear.
I am hoping to attend The Tell in Fargo as much as possible in the future to hear more fantastic stories from the public; to learn, grow, and expand from others’ experiences. As I hear people share their deepest secrets, maybe my confidence and comfortability will grow as well. And maybe, just maybe, one day
I will put my name in the hat.