During the past weekend, I had the honor of attending Our Stories. In the past, this event has been called Vagina* OurStories; however, the name was changed to reflect the program’s gender inclusivity. Our Stories gives students the opportunity to write and perform their narratives in front of a larger audience. Participants also have the option of writing a piece or performing a piece written by someone else. I should have been attending this event during my previous years at UC Davis, but I’m glad I didn’t miss the opportunity this time around. In fact, I think this event was exactly what I needed to rekindle my faith in the world and my obsession with the power of individual narratives.
Seeing these faces and bodies of pure bravery and hearing the words of their minds and souls initially impacted me in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I knew that there was going to be some heavy thematic content. I knew I would be hearing real stories coming from the souls of real humans. I expected to be affected. I expected to be inspired, but I didn’t know that the first step towards this involved recognizing the strength I lacked, the strength I wanted to have.
While witnessing the presence of courage in within all of these performers, I was confronted with my own cowardice. I was forced to deal with my own inability to assert myself, to make myself heard in spaces that I should be utilizing. This act of sharing my experiences is a form of self-care that I have not been engaging in lately, and OurStories reminded me of how much I needed to start doing this again. Like each powerful performer, I’ve experienced and continue to experience fear, pain, and immense sorrow. OurStories taught me that beauty and pain are not mutually exclusive. Pain itself is not beautiful. There’s nothing to romanticize about trauma or mental illness. The beauty is in a person’s capacity to feel something so overwhelming, express this pain, and come out more radiant than before. The beauty is the process of healing, but healing cannot take place unless there is something to heal from.
One of the performers of OurStories, Sam Chiang (she/her/hers), spoke with me about how the writing process was made more challenging due to her mental illness. She writes:
“One of the ways in which bipolar disorder manifests is that I don’t give myself the time to sit with my thoughts because reflecting doesn’t always feel so pleasant… It wasn’t until I went to my first meeting for Our Stories this year that I was able to have enough time to examine my feelings and process what had happened. Once I unlocked the door, everything came pouring out.”
Her piece, “Picture This”, showed that she is a force to be reckoned with. Her rage resonated and the pure artistry of her work was astounding. I’m so fortunate that I got to be there while she spoke her truths. I wish I had told all of the performers how much I valued their narratives, but I felt as though my words and actions would take up too much space during moments that were undeniably about them.
Here’s where I’m going to take up space. This is another place where OurStories has its impact: me. My life is my story, my life is my stage, and I will use that spotlight. When no spotlight is present, I will create my own. I’m making a promise to speak as a way of giving back to the collection of voices that has always inspired me in the hopes that I can make a difference in someone else’s life.
Thank you to the WRRC for coordinating and hosting this event so exceptionally. Thank you to Sam Chiang for speaking to me about her experience. Thank you to everyone who shared their stories for the past two nights. And finally, thank you to everyone who has shared and continues to share their stories in their daily lives. We need more of this now more than ever.
All images do not belong to Her Campus.