After earning my bachelor’s degree I immediately began a graduate program at a very small university in Indiana. The first day I nervously entered the classroom and immediately noticed something unique about the people that filled the classroom. Sitting in that room were twenty-ish diverse and very different students. This wasn’t the typical college classroom.
During the first few weeks of our program we were given a very unique and vulnerable project: Tell the Class Your Story. This wasn’t your typical “tell us about yourself” assignment. The professors didn’t want our age and favorite color. They didn’t want our height and favorite restaurant. They wanted our story.
They wanted to know what inspired us, what hurt us, what held us back and what pushed us forward. They wanted to know what made us the people we are, deep in the depths of our soul. They wanted pictures. They wanted specifics. They wanted details.
They wanted to expose the raw and truest version of ourselves.
They wanted to know the relationships and adventures that led us to the seats we were sitting in. They wanted to know us, in our entirety. To share our stories like we’ve never shared them before.
This wasn’t an easy ask. We were strangers in that classroom. We barely knew the name of the person sitting next to us. This was a classroom full of people from different places and different times. Different situations and different circumstances.
I don’t think a single one of us was excited to have an assignment that would require us to present the class with intimate details of our lives. But, we did as good students do. We completed the assignment and headed to class ready to fulfill the requirements. Ready to get it over with and move on.
Instead, something incredible happened that day. These presentations changed us and the entire atmosphere in that classroom. We sat there mesmerized by the words and stories that flowed from our peer’s mouths and hearts.
We laughed. We cried. We bonded.
All of us.
Every. Single. One.
After the assignment, not only were the names of our peers engraved in our minds, but their stories were too. Everyone was different than they looked and different than we expected. A room full of strangers became family that day, became friends. Each person and story became important and valued.
Turns out, people want to share their stories. People want to tell their victories, their failures, and their adventures. People want to be heard and appreciated. People want to be understood.
This project opened hearts and formed relationships that have lasted to this day.
I’ve always wondered if our teachers knew what they were doing when they assigned that project, or if our group of classmates dug deeper than any class before. That project is truly one of the most profound and thought-provoking assignments I’ve ever been given.
That assignment and that class full of strangers taught me the importance of my story and the stories of people that fill my life.
Look around you friends, do you know the stories of those around you? The detailed, emotional, brave and breathtaking stories of those around you? If not, ask.
You might learn something new, something inspiring, something heartbreaking, something life-changing, or even something funny.
Take a moment today and ask someone to share their story, then share yours. I promise you’ll be filled with new insight and a perspective unlike anything you might have heard before.
Happy storytelling, friends.
A wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.