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I went to the West Chester Story Slam again last night to watch and learn what it is to tell your story. I am also sizing up the competition so I can be prepared to compete in the Grand Slam storytelling event in November. I am eligible for that since I am this year’s January winner (see my video tab above) and all the year’s winners compete against each other at the end of the year. It gave me a chance last night to talk to the winner and ask him about his process. Even though he is about as smooth as they come, easily rattling off his story and hilariously, I’ll add, it turns out he preps just like I do. He writes and he rehearses and he does all the things I was sure I was doing as extra work that ‘real’ storytellers surely do not have to do.

But the real winner of the evening was a gentleman I’d never seen there before. He stood and told a spellbinding story of childhood sexual abuse of a sickening proportion. I went looking for this guy just afterward but I think he left quickly because it had to have been a monumental feat to do what he did. Michael Trageser told a poignant, eloquent, heart-wrenching story that ended with him admitting he is wracked as an adult by guilt and shame and cannot carry on in an adult role because of his haunting, debilitating past. I wanted to find this man and tell him how proud I was of him for standing up there and telling his story. It’s hard to tell your story when it isn’t about your life having been ruined at the age of five, so to do what he did, I am sure, was excruciating. I wanted to let him know that by telling his story he starts conversations among people that then allows light to come to a topic that is usually hidden in the dark. I wanted to tell him that although he feels he cannot carry on in an adult role, he is indeed doing something only adults can do, and that is to bear witness to a childhood stolen, for all the kids out there too young to speak for themselves. I wanted to tell him to keep telling his story, to contribute as an adult to the rescue of children who are so victimized. Being brave enough to tell your story is scary, and this guy did exactly what he should do, and exactly what only he can do.

I would have liked to have talked to this fellow. I would have liked to have urged him to forgive himself for the life that happened to him, and to encourage him to continue to share his story as a way to heal himself and help others. I really liked that guy.