Knees shaking. Heart pounding. “What are you doing?!” my thoughts spin as I sit in the back row at a MOTH Story Slam. I just put my name in a hat to tell my most personal story in public. Like maybe two-hundred-people public.
My name is called to a microphone on an empty stage. The story I’ve been working on for five years in writing, speaking, and filming is calling. All of it unexpressed. Just. Like. Me. Until this moment.
I have five minutes.
My legs wobble as I walk up on stage. With hands clenched behind my back and a shaky voice, I begin to tell my story.
“It’s the summer of 1995 and I’m standing in the Seoul Olympic Stadium holding the hand of a man I met just a month before, and am about to marry,” I hear my voice trembling through the microphone.
I was always the shy girl growing up. Waited to be asked questions. Never raised my hand. Never talked back. Never wanted to make anyone uncomfortable. But this story was about to make me and others, including my family, just that.
I can barely breathe as I continue explaining my upbringing in the Unification Church, including my participation in a mass wedding and arranged marriage when I was 20. How there, on the Astro Turf floor of the Seoul Olympic Stadium, I committed to marrying a man I’d met just a month before. How Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church I was raised in, officiated the wedding and had matched me and my then-husband using 8×10 photographs. How I ultimately left the marriage and broke from my parents and the church.
This story was one that, in the past, I could only tell in dark corners of bars.
“Stay quiet, stay small, stay perfect,” I’d tell the story.
“Speak it, get it out of you, TELL YOUR F&^&@# STORY” it would yell back.
It took me years of pillow bashing and talk therapy and countless storytelling workshops to become the woman who could finally stand in its truth.
The ripple effect of excavating and telling this story resulted in the documentary film Blessed Child (premiering two years later at DOC NYC in 2019) and inspired my current story coaching business.
I believe a powerful story is determined not by how dramatic it is, but by how much truth it holds inside. I now support others in excavating and sharing these truths and untethering their voices. The writing, businesses, projects, awareness, and healing born out of this truth telling has taken my breath away.
As I exited the Moth stage that night, I felt as if I had left a five ton burden on it. My story was no longer mine. It was everyone’s. The feeling I felt on my way home that night wasn’t elation, but something I hadn’t felt in all those years of holding my story back.
Cara Jones is a former Emmy Award winning broadcast journalist, founder of Storytellers for Good and story coach. Her current story coaching work was born out of a seven year journey of telling her own story through the documentary film, Blessed Child. Cara now helps entrepreneurs untether their voices through the telling of their deepest personal stories, wisdom and truth. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Huff Post, The Moth and Boston Globe.