Gaining the courage to tell my story

Lately I've been attending First Person Arts Story Slams. I love the mission of this organization; to connect people through stories. The concept of a Story Slam is pure genius: if you so desire, you put your name in a bucket, and ten names get chosen at random. If picked, you tell a true story that happened to you, that relates to the theme, and that's five minutes or less (without notes) up in front of a very supportive audience. Each time before last night, I haven't put my name in the bucket. I kept thinking I wasn't ready to share a story.

(Image created by First Person Arts).

Last night's theme was "shock". I was looking forward to the stories as usual, and also didn't think that I even had a story in which I was all that shocked, at least not Story Slam level worthy shock. My friend even asked me what my shock story would be, and I said I didn't know. I happily settled in for another night of storytelling without the added pressure of wondering whether my name would be called next.
(Image by

Yet as soon as the second person started telling their story, I immediately remembered that I had a great shock story. My first year of teaching in a Philly public school, I was mooned by a student during an after-school club. If that's not shocking, I'm not sure what is! Yet my story wasn't just about that moment in which an 8th grader pulled his pants down (yikes!) and I wasn't sure how to respond. It was about how much I was a fish out of water my first year teaching, and how now looking back on it, it's so much fun to laugh at the vast difference between what I expected and the reality. It was about how certain mentors took me under their wing and helped me navigate a situation that was so much more complex than the actual teaching. It was about these crazy little things that happen can really shape a person.

(I cannot find who created this image - if someone can, please let me know!).

Now, during the Story Slam, you can put your name in the bucket at the beginning of the night, or at intermission (after five people share their story). So there I was, listening to incredible stories and feeling like I just had to tell my own. I've never felt so much of a need to tell a story. I also knew that if I didn't put my name in that darn bucket I might never get up the courage to do it again. So, I hastily jotted down some notes (even though I lived the story, I had to think about how I was going to tell it), gathered every bit of courage and put my name in the bucket. Even if I wasn't called, I reasoned, I would be proud of myself for entering.

Of course, my name was the first to be called after the intermission, and my body went into shock. I'm not even sure how I moved from my chair to the stage, but somehow I got up there and started telling my story. It was truly an out of body experience. I was amazed that on one level I could be literally shaking and on another level I could be actively telling my story (let's not forget, I couldn't use notes), seeking connection with the audience, poking fun at my situation, making the audience laugh (who knew I could be funny? :), and having an amazing time. I don't remember exactly what I said (I'm waiting for the video to be posted to find out exactly how I did), but I remember how I felt. Up on stage, I felt this incredible rush that I could share a story honestly with people and receive such support.

On a side note, my students always used to make fun of me for talking with my hands. I now see what they meant :)!

I'm still on a high from sharing my story. If you have any forum to share a story (even a silly story like a kid mooning you) in public, up in front of people, I highly recommend it.

Have any of you gotten up the courage to share a story? How was it? Tell us about it in the comments below.