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The Power of Our Personal Stories

December 18, 2019

The #MyWheaton blog shares first-person stories from Wheaton students and alumni.

The Power of Our Personal Stories

Immanuel Kyun ‘21 is a communication major and Korean American who grew up living back and forth in the United States and China. In this MyWheaton blog post, Immanuel tells the story of Studio 1:27 and its impact on his life.

I think we have underestimated the power stories can have on us. Sure, they can entertain us in forms such as books and movies, but they also have the power to save lives. We often do not value our own personal stories. Because we live in a culture that tries so hard to live the narrative of a flourishing life, we end up attempting to fit into the worldly narrative of “living the dream.” Social media, which is a huge part of our lives now, rewards us in sharing our best moments with others and not so much our worst moments. We live in a society that is saturated with high performance. As a result, we are oblivious to the struggles everyone goes through. We find ourselves feeling alone in our struggles because there is no sign of anyone else going through them. Even at a place like Wheaton College, this is very much a real issue. However, what I have come to learn is that sharing our own personal stories can change that. 

The beauty of stories is that they show the struggles and pain we all face. While there are various different types of stories with different structures, most stories have some sort of struggle. In my story, it has often felt like I have struggled alone all my life. I am a missionary kid who has moved over fourteen times. Leaving the people and places I have come to love each time never got any easier, and moving into a new and unfamiliar setting with a different culture was difficult. I often found myself feeling alone in my struggles compared to others who did not have the same experience as me. But there was nothing I could do about it—this was my life.

Coming into college, I was determined to make the most of it. College was a chance for me to live the life I wanted to live. I began to make a lot of good friends who I will cherish forever. I hoped to leave all the pain I had experienced behind in the past and to start living the life that I never had. But it did not take long before negative thoughts and emotions came back. Although this was not the first time in my life dealing with mental illness, it was these years in college where my mental health hit rock-bottom. While my friends were amazing, they did not grow up with the same experiences as me. They could not relate to the pain that I went through and am still going through. I could not find anyone who I could relate to, so I thought it was just me.

Because my own story was so unique, I developed an interest in telling other people’s stories. I wanted to give a voice to the voiceless because I knew what it felt like to be without a voice. I consider myself more creative than logical, and so I love using art to tell people’s stories. I love music, photography, and videography. One day, I was explaining this new vision of mine to someone, and she told me about a new team that was being put together on campus that was doing exactly what I wanted to do. I applied for it and got in!

Stevener Gaskin was the man who had this vision to tell other people’s stories on campus and to put together this team. But before we started on anything, we needed to bond as a team. Before we could tell other people’s stories, we shared ours with each other. We went on a retreat for the purpose of sharing our stories and jumpstarting our organization. When we arrived at the Airbnb on a Friday night, we started to share our stories. I prepared a short, shallow version of my story to tell the team. I want to thank Sitara, who shared her story first. It was she who set the tone for the rest of us. Because she was vulnerable, we all opened up. After hearing other people’s stories, I realized that even though our stories are different, we all deal with similar struggles. We all feel pain, though some of us can relate to each other more than others. I remember that after I shared my story and listened to others’, this sense of relief and belonging came over me. 

If we had not shared our stories, I believe that our team would not have thrived the way we did from then on. Putting together an organization on campus is a lot of hard work. We had to start from scratch, and things got chaotic without any structure and multiple people involved. The naming of our project itself took us seven hours. But despite the hardships, we were able to get through it. We named our group The StoryTelling Project and our project Studio 1:27, based on Genesis 1:27 (“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”). We were able to open up a space for Studio 1:27, enabling us to tell other people’s stories. This entire experience has been so good for me. I have found something that I am very passionate about and have found a community that I belong to. I have even grabbed meals with people that I do not know very well to share my story and hear theirs and it has blessed me tremendously.

This experience, however, did not take away the pain and problems. I still deal with them today, but what I have learned is that I am not alone. The struggle that I am going through might be something you may be going through as well. You are not alone, and we are meant to live life together. So if you are reading this and are interested as well, feel free to reach out! I would love to exchange stories!