Intertwined storytelling series helps connect the UO community through personal narratives

Photo by Rylee Kahan

The University of Oregon hosted “Intertwined: Journeys,” a free storytelling event, on Thursday and Friday. The event included 11 storytellers — undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff — sharing stories of a journey they have made that had an impact on their lives.

Intertwined is a UO production through the Office of the Dean of Students that hosts events to give storytellers from the community an opportunity to share their stories with an audience.

This year’s theme of journeys brought a diverse group of storytellers to the stage. Stories were about anything from a literal cross-country journey, the journey of healing after the loss of a loved one, the journey after growing up being discriminated against or the journey of becoming closer to family.

“I felt like I had more of an open mind after hearing others’ stories,” said Stephanie Scott, a UO freshman majoring in photography. “Knowing that there are people out there that had to work a little harder or go through tougher times to get where they are now was breathtaking.”

The Intertwined storytelling series aims to share diverse stories about community members’ lives in order to build a better sense of community at UO.

The story that earned the most laughter and attention was a story about a cross-country hike told by UO classified staff member Piper Fahrney. The story starts with Fahrney in Arizona getting ready to start his hike to the east coast.

Fahrney comes upon a dead rattlesnake in Texas and decides to pick it up to cut off the rattle as a souvenir. A Texas police officer comes over to Fahrney and questions him about whether he was the one to kill the snake or not, all while Fahrney holds the snake with his hands in the air in surrender.

Fahrney describes this scene to the audience as one of the many “Oh shit, I am here” moments that he’s had in his life. Fahrney finishes his hike at the east coast and finishes his story with, “Oh shit, I am here.”

Melissa Schenter, a graduate student and graduate teaching fellow with the Office of the Dean of Students, helped organize Intertwined. Schenter opened the night by saying that through hearing others’ stories, we can all become better at taking the time out of our day to just stop and listen to what our community has to share.

“There are two big things that happen when we take more time to listen to each other,” Schenter said. “First, from a cerebral perspective, we learn more about the world around us by adopting different lenses. Second, we exercise our abilities to empathize.”

Although the goal of Intertwined is to build a better sense of community through the sharing of diverse stories, sometimes hearing stories of success can cause stress among listeners about whether or not their lives are going in the correct direction.

“I’m glad I have a second major and a minor to fall back on,” said Sarah Case, a UO freshman double majoring in psychology and sociology, after hearing one storytellers experience with being a Psychology major.

Case said that she wasn’t upset with hearing about the storytellers journey through the psychology major and how he ended up studying cultural psychology, but that she wouldn’t do it the way he did and hopes that her route through psychoanalytic and forensic psychology goes the way she wants it to.

By listening to other peoples’ stories, we expand our own worldviews, which sometimes means challenging our own belief systems and assumptions,” Schenter said. “This means that sometimes listening can be uncomfortable — which is why it’s even more important to practice.

“Intertwined: Journeys” was an opportunity to hear culturally diverse stories about going from one point in life to another, and some of those journeys did include success. While the overwhelming feeling of the room was that of admiration, there was also a sense of urgency from some audience members to get to the successful point in their lives.

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