Our stories distinguish as well as unite us

At the start of each new year, I usually search for an inspiring book to read. Recently, I was reminded that some of the best stories come from the lives of those I encounter every day.

We all are walking chapters of triumphs and failures; love and loss; good and bad behavior; best-laid plans and things that have gone horribly awry. (Let’s call these plot twists.) However, we often get so wrapped up in our own daily grind that we forget to be mindful of our own developing narratives as well as curious about those of others.

Dear World, which the Council on Inclusion and Diversity and the Dean of Students Office hosted on campus in October, clearly showed us the value of stopping to notice the beauty of how stories make us such unique individuals yet also unite us as a collective of fallible and fabulous human beings moving through life.

A snippet of a story about a memorable moment in her life is written on a student’s arm during the Dear World event. Photo by Keith Nordstrom

At Wheaton, the national traveling project conducted a series of workshops that invited students, faculty and staff members to engage with each other and talk about the memorable events and moments that have made up their lives, write words on their bodies that intriguingly hint at the stories and to pose for portraits that were then shared via social media. During several guided gatherings, participants talked candidly to bring forth these narratives.

After the sessions, we learned things that we might never have known as we sought the full stories behind the brief words. “What did you write and what does it mean?” sparked many conversations across campus.

My words, “O.J. changed my life,” for example, tell the story of how I met my husband. One night I wanted to stay home and watch O.J. Simpson on his ‘wild’ Bronco-versus-the-police chase on live TV (those of you who are too young to remember will have to Google this). Instead, I went to a party that my friend insisted I come to in order to meet a guy she wanted to fix me up with. My future husband—chocolate cuteness in a linen suit, but not the guy my friend had in mind—came over with a cup of orange juice (O.J.) and a load of charisma and changed the trajectory of my life.

All the chapters in the story of my life following that night—the amazing teenage son, the job I love, the beautiful home, the creative endeavors I’m able to pursue—stem from that one moment.

What a treat to be the editor of a magazine that tells some of the stories that make up Wheaton—even the imperfect parts.