By Kim Cheel
There’s a line in one of my favourite pump-up songs (Die Vampire, Die) that proclaims, “You have a story to tell, pull your novel out of that sock drawer!” I get so amped up when I hear that, and not just because it is accompanied by a key change. We do have a story; each and every one of us has a story. That’s why we turn to books, to music, to television, and to film. We’re either the author of the story or the audience of the story.
I recently took part in a three-day festival where I performed my one-woman show, Cleaning for the Prime Minister + Other Delusions. It’s a story of the delusions that save us when life becomes too much. I have performed this show six times, and every single time I wait for my call time, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Maybe no one wants to hear my dirty laundry – it’s a very raw and vulnerable piece. Maybe I’m being too dramatic. Maybe I’m not remembering things accurately. Then the lights go out on the stage, and I make my way to sit on the chair. The lights go back up, and I say my first line. 45-minutes later, the final song plays, the lights fade, and the audience erupts in support.
Not once has any audience member told me anything that validates those fears that run through my mind just before showtime. Every time I’ve performed this show, the feedback has been astronomically positive. People relate to what I share. They see parts of themselves in moments of my experiences. Twenty years later, I have given voice to the young girl, teenager, and young woman who didn’t have a voice, and I’m speaking for people who feel they don’t have a voice either.
That’s the majesty of storytelling. There will always be at least one other person who relates to your story, even if they didn’t experience everything you have. Too often, people hide in the shadows of shame and feel alone. Your story could be the story that helps them emerge, to leave that shame behind and move forward to truth and redemption.
Today, I want to encourage you, especially if you feel your story is too messy or embarrassing for another person to read. I understand why you think that way, but I encourage you to take a step forward. Storytellers have the power with their bravery to change lives. As Emerson said, “a hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.” Story eliminates shame. Story eliminates lies we tell ourselves. Story breaks cycles of abuse, of trauma.
If you feel compelled to write your story, then know there is an audience. They are waiting for you.