There is nothing better than hearing your close friend share an intense, silly or emotional story from their day-to-day life. You giggle over the details of how they slipped down the stairs in front of a cute boy, you cringe when they had a panic attack on their way to their first exam and you feel heartbroken when they found out their grandma was sick. Through the give and take, you are invited to share their experiences. This is a way we catch up and learn from the people in our lives. Stories create a snapshot of their individual experience and we are granted full access to their unique perspective.

I have recently become fascinated with stories from complete strangers. One platform that showcases storytellers is The Moth. They have live shows, competitions, Radio Hours and a podcast online. The Moth airs and presents true stories told by real people from all over the world. I most likely will never meet these people, or even see a picture of them, but will know something intimate that they decided to share with the world. I began listening to The Moth on long drives and found the stories so captivating that sometimes I would have to pull over to finish them.

Last week, I was finally able to attend a live event, a StorySLAM, here in Ann Arbor. StorySLAMs are themed, open-mic competitions where those who want to share a story put their name in a hat and 10 are chosen to present for five minutes. Assigned audience members judge each storyteller’s piece individually. Their rating of each story is charted throughout the show and the winner of the SLAM moves on to the GrandSLAM, a larger scale competition show where the StorySLAM winners compete.

The Ann Arbor Distilling Company was jam packed. I walked into a room full of lively individuals, who filled all the seats, leaving standing room only. While I was anxiously waiting in line for the bathroom and trying not to miss the first story, I met a woman who drove with a group of friends all the way from Cleveland to join in on this special experience. I was amazed and humbled by The Moth listeners’ commitment to traveling near and far to support the live storytellers. 

The theme of the night was “bouncing back.” The stories ranged from experiences of bad breakups, childhood bullies, moving out of hometowns and other general moments of life’s confusion. The atmosphere of the crowd changed with each story, from smiles and laughter to silence and sympathy. The community of listeners was fully engaged in each story, following the lead of each storyteller on their narrative journey.

As I listened, I realized that I could relate many of my own experiences to those that were being presented at the mic. I could not help but start thinking of an outline for my own story that would fit this particular theme. Any one of us could find something in our lives to share under this general theme. I was reminded that everyone is a member of the shared human experience. We live in a world with many categories and binaries that seek to divide us, but often we are more similar than we are willing to admit.

The Moth’s platform highlights these similarities through real stories that connect us all. I truly believe if we take the time to listen to strangers’ stories we could learn from people who have vast differences from us. Even if our version of “bouncing back” is different than someone else’s, together we can work to understand complex issues from all perspectives.                  

If you want to join in on this human experience come to the next StorySLAM at Ann Arbor Distilling Company on Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m. Have a time conflict? You can always listen to stories online through TheMoth.org or through your local radio station.

Ellery Rosenzweig is an LSA sophomore.

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