A lot of my work deals with storytelling as a platform through which we can bridge experiential divides and build stronger communities of diverse backgrounds and identities - and I completely believe in and am beyond one hundred percent passionate about that... but I wanted to start somewhere a little closer to home. Community building and outward perspective is important after all, but I also believe that real world changing starts within.
I can only speak for myself, but I'll go ahead and say it: I have a really hard time with self love. Personal worth. Value. The whole thing. Really. Hard. Time. And from the number of people I've spoken, I think it's fair to say it seems to be an issue permeating our culture. Yes, we live in a time when the social media narrative inundates us with this idea that narcissism runs like a rampant little troll and we, on the whole, want for little (aside from financial stability, bodily autonomy, racial and gender equity, existential meaning,... but I digress). It's the play between the pressure to appear as if I'm living my #bestlife and the simultaneous fear that I am truly narcissistic leading to an unwillingness to engage with my own stories. Because, you know, I don't want to be too much about me.
Some of that may be because I - despite being a performer who literally cannot go too long without attention - am actually painfully introverted. Some may be the culture around being raised a woman, Christian, half Korean, an only child, or a slew of other bits and bobs that amalgamate to form each of our beings. On top of which lie the stories I drank in growing up - stories that feature Asian women depicted in sexualized as either the perpetrators or victims of violence. The stories that are pulled from eastern material and replaced by white faces because while our stories are worth telling, we aren't worth being seeing to tell them. All of which reinforced the idea that my story wasn't valid. That I wasn't valid, and thus I didn't matter.
Of course, I did matter and I do matter, and so do you. As stories go mine did change course - now, let me stop you right there, I am still a healthy way off from reaching any sort of pinnacle of self love so rest assured that is not the case - but things are moving in a different direction.
The first live storytelling I participated in was by invitation and themed Origins. I spoke on my name, how I chose it, and how - paralleling my favorite Korean folktale, I turned from a unicorn into a fox (a story for another time, but one I'd be happy to share ;}). What I discovered about storytelling that I immediately fell in love with, was that it wasn't about living your HASHTAG best life. No one wants to listen to a story about standing perfectly still on a beach drinking out of a coconut. Hell, no one wants to tell a story about that. No, people want to hear stories that they connect to - that mean something, and the things that mean something are messy and unpredictable.
Messy and unpredictable. Those are the stories that mean something. Those are the stories that are most valuable. Think about that. The things we go through in life that change us, that affect us, where we learn, grow, overcome. Those are the stories that deserve to have a voice because they are the stories that make us, but they are also the stories that others need to hear.
I talked to a girl friend of mine once about a story she wanted to tell. She wasn't sure if she wanted to share it, and I told her that it didn't sound like it was for everyone. It probably wasn't. However there might be one person - just one - who desperately needed to hear it. To know that they weren't alone and that their story was valid and shared, and if someone else spoke it that just might mean that they could accept it, too.
Giving your story voice honors it, and it honors yourself. And... okay, so it does also give back to the community, but at the end of the day if loving and validating yourself can give to someone else, it's really a win win.