Sharing your truths is one of the hardest things you can ever do. Opening up is a struggle every time, and taking risks is nerve-wracking, to say the least. But once you finally learn to let go, these things become so simple and so amazing.
From March 1st to March 4th, I had the amazing opportunity to go to Mizzou in Columbia, Missouri for their True/False Film Festival. The festival encompasses the art of non-fiction storytelling through documentaries.
I woke up at four in the morning, adrenaline rushing through me making it too difficult to sleep. I sat and waited for it to finally be 7:30 so I could rush out my door to leave. When it was time to leave, I smiled so wide that it hurt as I strutted through my door to my car. Abby Long, Morgan Flynn, Mariah Reeves, Nicole Adams, and I, jammed out to a rocking playlist on our way there and went shopping through the downtown district until it was time to meet the other campers.
We filled up into the True/False headquarters and met the other students that were attending. Most were from Columbia, but some were from New Mexico, Kansas, and North Carolina. We did activities where we got to become acquainted with one another and then we met our creative project directors. Pearl Quick, power writing teacher, who is currently enrolled at Princeton. David Moran, part-time poet, and creative director for the company, SoapBox. And finally, Caullen Hudson, the founder and executive producer for SoapBox.
They put us into small groups and told us our creative project would be a two-person poem with someone else in our group. I chose a girl named Ana from North Carolina. After we met our groups, we walked to a theater to watch American Animals. It was a film based on the Transy Book Heist that depicted the events leading up to it, interwoven with interviews with the actual men who committed the crime.
On the second day, we were all super tired as we watched the film Won’t You Be My Neighbor? It was about Mr. Rogers and his long-lasting legacy in the world. After we had lunch, we broke off into small breakout sessions based on our interest. I had the pleasure to go to Audio Storytelling and interview a woman who actually lives in Chicago to create stories with audio. Once that was over, I went to a session with Quick. She gave us each fifteen minutes to write something, and we each had the opportunity to share our piece. It was nice to have a safe space to feel connected with people that we didn’t even know.
The last movie of the night was Crime + Punishment. I enjoyed this movie because it went through the NYPD and their illegal usage of Quotas, a number to show how many people a cop had arrested. It had a major emphasis on racial minorities and was interesting to gain perspective.
The third day was less eventful but was probably the most impactful day for me. We watched the movie Primas, a story of two cousins who were both raped and how they dealt with it. At the end of the movie, they both came on stage for the Q&A. Then, we got to work on our creative projects. Ana and I spent the whole time sharing our lives looking for things we could use. We ended up not finishing it because we ran out of time, but it was a great experience to open up and share personal details about myself. After dinner, Morgan, Nicole, Abby, and I, all decided we wanted to hit the mall, relax, and head to bed early.
Our final day was emotional. It was Nicole’s 17th birthday, and our last day to be with the amazing people we had become close with. We gathered together to share our poems, eat lunch, and say our final goodbyes. Nicole, Morgan, and Abby all shared their spectacular two person poems to everyone, and I shared a poem I wrote by myself. Telling my story to a room full of people I had just met was terrifying, but at the end, it was so empowering. To have people come up to me and hug me, tell me that my piece moved them and that I was worth more than I thought meant the world to me.
Abby Long’s favorite part of the experience was that, “We all learned to come together to realize that every person has their struggles. It can be easy to share those struggles and become more open about them because a lot of times, that’s how you get over things and become stronger.”
“I felt like I could actually express myself because it was all about finding your own truth and learning how to listen to other people’s truths,” shares Nicole Adams.
Morgan Flynn recalled the more lighthearted side of the trip saying, “I got closer to Abby, Audrey, Nicole, and Reeves. Everyone was dancing and it was a lot of fun.”
Mariah Reeves expressed that, “My most beneficial part of the weekend was growing alongside my students and challenging each other to be empathetic and to be open-minded through the content we saw.”
I’ll never forget this experience. It changed my life in so many ways and made me grow so much as a human being. I’m thankful for everyone who was a part of it, and for everyone who made me feel like my thoughts were worthwhile.
“If you don’t tell your story, someone else will tell it for you.”