By Natalie Pressman
We all have them – the moments that change us.
The thing that flips some switch within us and then, for better or worse, we’re different.
For Michael Geisterfer that moment came out of a conversation with his adopted son over a decade ago. For Barâa Arar, it was performing poetry at summer camp and for Kagiso Lesego Molope is was a rejection-induced nervous breakdown following a newly finished novel. These precious moments, hair dye, surgery and birthdays are just a few of the topics discussed at a CBC pop up series hosted by radio host Alan Neal.
“Reality and life is much more nuanced and textured than fiction,” says Geisterfer, a participant of the event. “Ordinary people have extraordinary stories to tell and I think there’s such great depth to the unexpectedness.”
The pop up series is a way to tell these stories honestly.
The night is an emotional rollercoaster in its truest sense. I laughed, the real kind of laughter when your heart is in it. I felt touched, and there were moments when I teared up.
“Ordinary people have extraordinary stories to tell and I think there’s such great depth to the unexpectedness.”
There is something deeply connective about this kind of storytelling. Something significant about a community member that reaches out to talk about a moment that’s changed them, and something even more powerful in a community that comes out to listen.
While Geisterfer came to the event by himself, feeling “a little out of [his] element,” by the time he left he felt supported.
“You become vulnerable when you’re up there and you have to be,” he says. “You want to share your story without necessarily portraying yourself in the best light. You have to be really honest and so there’s a vulnerability there that’s worrisome.”
But this crowd was not one to judge.
“It was very warm. I had an immediate response from the people around me, and as I was walking out, lots of people from all ages came up to me thanking me for the story.”
Millions of things change us, but when we take the time to reflect on those forks in the road or forced decisions, it demands attention.
Neal came up with the idea as a way to hear stories that don’t often get told. To a large degree, performers just get up on stage and talk. He says it’s that spontaneity that makes the show so personal
“There’s a weird power in the room when these stories are being shared,” he says. “There’s a strange kind of liberation.”
“There’s a weird power in the room when these stories are being shared.”
Barâa Marar, student, poet and participant of the event, explains that we have the power and ability to create spaces and dialogue.
“The event allows stories to be told in a way that is accessible and relatable and will resonate with people,” she says. “Even if the story may not be identical to another person’s, the emotions and the feelings and that human aspect of it is similar.”
“It takes two to tell a story. There’s a teller and a listener, so that’s why I say it’s a conversation.”
The idea came out of an event at Canada Reads last year when Neal asked listeners to send in stories of a moment where they had to move on.
“The personal nature of the stories was quite mind blowing and I wondered if this was something we could do on a regular basis,” he says.
“Despite the fact that the stories are all unique, there’s a relatability. Somewhere in the audience you hear someone say oh my gosh, I went through that too in some weird way and I think that’s something people connect to.”
If you haven’t been able to make it to the free event, you can still catch the last changing moments pop up at Stomping Ground (728 Bank St) on Thursday March 23rd from 7–9pm or listen in on All in a Day on CBC Radio. The recordings of the event will also be available as a podcast in the coming weeks.