A Year of Storytelling

There is power in telling your own story.

It sounds silly. To tell someone that their life can change if only they tell their story. Don’t we already know our stories? We’re living them. We’re breathing our stories in and out every day. But are we really letting ourselves live into our stories? Are we stopping ourselves, looking back—reflecting—and wondering what it is that brought us to where we are in our lives today?

To tell our stories means that we should reflect back on our journeys so far. We don’t have to start in the womb and move forward in chronological order. Chances are there are some formative moments that stick out to you, people who taught you things, places you visited, that changed you and molded you into the person you are today. That is what it means to tell your story. And that can be healing, especially for those who have suffered traumas or losses or sadnesses. Getting words out on the page about what happened can heal us and help make us whole again. But you do not have to suffer a great tragedy to tell your story.

In the spring of 2014 I taught a creative writing class to women in a recovery program. I had no idea what I was doing. Maybe we would write short stories, poems, or fiction I thought. I never dreamed in a million years that what these women, who had indeed suffered great traumas, would want to write about themselves. I had no idea that they would want to write about their past, their healing, their hopes for the future, and sometimes the very thing that brought them into the recovery program.

They wanted to write their stories and so I tried my best to make it a safe space to let that happen. As the women wrote I felt compelled to write alongside them. I didn’t know what I would write about. I certainly hadn’t been through any great traumas or tragedies. I had lived my life in a safer space. I felt embarrassed sharing my writings with them. Who was I to give advise when my biggest life tragedy in life seemed to be things like not getting along with my parents, feeling lonely, and not having a clear understanding of what my future would hold. None of those were things that I felt like held up to the stories I was hearing. And yet, as I wrote I felt like I was getting to know myself. I was understanding things about where I came from and why I acted the way I did,

Telling my own story, talking about my own lived experience, helped me grown in confidence and appreciate my own personality and my own struggles, no matter how small or how large they were. I started to understand my family, the people who shaped me, and the place I came from. I started to look forward in life and not be afraid of the next adventure.

HerStory was born from the need I saw for everyday ordinary women to have a place to tell their stories. Women who haven’t, by the standards of history books, done great things or suffered great tragedies, but women who are living great lives nonetheless. Women who are bravely carrying on after losing a sibling or friend or pregnancy. Women who have traveled miles alone and together to discover themselves. Women who aren’t afraid to say that motherhood is not always a walk in the park. Women who tell stories about the women who raised them and shaped them. Women who have become missionaries. Women who have started nonprofits. Women who have battled with the size and shape of their bodies and learned to love themselves in spite of everything society has said they should change.

These were the women whose stories I wanted to hear. These were the women who were just like me. These were the women with my fears and hopes and dreams. They are not the women who have cured cancer, won gold medals or Golden Globes. They are my sisters and neighbors and best friends. They are the women I look up to everyday. They are women living their lives through hardships and joys.

It was a year ago that I started this blog, asking timidly if a few of my friends would want to write. “I have this idea,” I told them. “You can write about anything,” I said.

And that was what happened. They wrote about anything and everything. They wrote about loss, about love, about adventure, and motherhood, and so much more. The stories were true and raw and more than I could ever have asked for.

Over time it was no longer my friends who were writing for the blog but strangers—strangers from all over the world—from Australia to Guatemala. Women started to tell me how much they loved having a chance to share their stories, having a place where they felt safe giving voice to deepest pains and greatest joys. A place where they felt it was okay to tell the truth about their lives.

July marks the first anniversary of this blog and I couldn’t be more honored to have spent the last year being entrusted with the stories of friends and strangers. It is my hope that in this next year the blog can grown and flourish into something more than just simply writing. I’m looking forward to sharing women’s stories through new forms such as podcasts and photos as well continuing to add more fiction and poetry to our rotations. There are so many ways to tell your story. I hope that this page continues to be a place that showcases the everyday women who live ordinary lives that are truly extraordinary. There is power in telling your story.  

-Julia Nusbaum, Creator

Originally from small town Northern Illinois Julia Nusbaum is a 2014 graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee. She holds a Master of Theological studies with an emphasis in social justice and gender issues. While in grad school Julia became interested in the way that our narratives shape who we are and how telling our stories can help us work through deeper issues in our lives. While teaching a creative writing class at Thistle Farms, a women's recovery program in Nashville, Julia saw the way women were ready to talk about their journey's and what shaped them and pushed them forward to be better versions of themselves. Writing along side these women Julia also discovered a lot about herself through reflecting on her story. She realized then that women, all women and those who identified as female, needed a place to tell their stories. And like that HerStory was born.