If a stranger asked you to write down your private story, what would you say?
For the past six years, Brooklyn-based artist, speaker and developer Brandon Doman has been that stranger, asking people to spill. He does this by setting up signs in various public spaces, inviting people to anonymously write down something about their lives. Then Doman shares these "journal entries" on "The Strangers Project" website.
"I ask people to write about anything they want — as long as it's true," he writes on the project's website. "Sharing stories helps us learn about each other, and in turn, about ourselves. For a moment, it doesn't matter if you're a business person, a student, a homeless person, a secretary, a teacher, a child, a doctor, a traveler, a mother or a father — we all share something common."
Through understanding and empathizing with stories of total strangers, Doman hopes we can all feel a little more connected.
He's collected over 10,000 entries, and featured 200 in a book entitled "What's Your Story?: True Experience from Complete Strangers."
Check out a few entries below:
"I have never wanted to find my biological parents. I appreciate that they created me. I understand that they were human beings, fallible, individual, just like myself.
They had their reasons.
My PARENTS had their reasons for adopting me.
It's all good."
My story is a long one, however, I will make this short… one year ago I had a major life change. I had a stroke at 32 years old. I thought I was too young. But it happened. And I had to re-learn how to do everything again. Everything!
But here I am! I'm not only surviving, but I am THRIVING!
I now choose to have #NoMoreBadDays because every day that I'm alive is a gift, and it's a good day!
I'm scared. I thought this would be a good way to relieve some of the tension I'm feeling. I don't think I have a story. But I have dreams. I want someone to look at me/my art/writing and say; I understand. Even if you don't understand, just listen.
My 23 years on this planet has been about fear.
I'm afraid. I'm afraid.
I'm afraid and I don't want to be forgotten.
How can I stay in people's memories?
How can I prove my existence?
I'm tired, sad, and lonely.
And I don't have a story…"
"We are two women and we both have EATING DISORDERS.
We have been in residential treatment recently, and are in an ED program together in the city. We just had dinner (Swiss! Bagels! Lox! Cream Cheese! Avocado!) and dessert (Chocolate covered strawberries! Cupcakes!), sitting in Washington Square Park.
This is what freedom feels like."
"Dear World, I'm a 10-year-old animal and dinosaur-lover. I started loving dinosaurs when I was about six or seven. The reason that I like dinosaurs is that there are different kinds of dinosaurs. For example: Ankylosaurus and T-Rex are called dinosaurs even if one is a herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore. Well that's about it. here are some questions about dinosaurs, let's see if you are smarter than me :) (It's cause I have glasses).
1. Which dinosaur was the dinosaur king?
'Tranosaurus-Rex' or 'Spinosaurus' (Did I spell them right?)
2. Which type of dinosaur can survive the longest?
Carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore
P.S. DON'T JUDGE ME ABOUT MY DRAWING"
"My cat thinks she can answer the door. She runs to the doorway every time the doorbell rings and looks at me like, 'Well, are you getting it or am I?' Then I have to tell her, 'Baby, you're not tall enough and you have no thumbs.'"
"So once upon a time there was a girl who grew up on three different continents. She'd booked thousands of miles of travel before she could speak a word — in one of the three languages she was exposed to as a baby!
So it's no wonder that as an adult she was torn between making a permanent home, growing roots, and staying in one place, and living on an airplane, George Clooney style.
Where are you from? is the hardest question to answer. Even the last decade offers little clue!
I love being a nomad but I'm always fantasizing about a home."
"The First Word.
I am a young teenage mother. I got pregnant at 16 and had my son at 17. I am a young single mother who lives on my own. I'm 19 now and my son is almost 2. He is my best friend. He is my heart and soul. Despite everyone's harsh words to give him up, I had him, and stood alone. I never knew how much I loved him until I heard his first word. It was when he first spoke the word 'Mama,' I knew it was real. All the pain, tears, struggle that I had endured was worth it. I am his 'Mama,' 'Mom,' 'Mommy.' I am his first word."
"We met here. UA #125
Me: "Would you like some chocolate?"
Her: "Yeah sure… why not?"
9 months later she moved from Berlin to Jersey City for love… and more chocolate.
I was working a flight from Berlin to Newark. I happened to bring Guylian Belgian Chocolates. After hours of noticing her on my flight, I was happy about just smiling at each other. It wasn't until our unexpected fuel stop in Goose Bay, Canada that I finally was standing next to her. I am so happy she is addicted to chocolate, and now we are addicted to each other."
"When I was a little girl, my father used to make me stand in front of a mirror every morning in my underwear.
'You need to lose weight,' he'd tell me, poking my stomach. 'Look how chubby you are! No one will ever think you're cute if you're chubby!'
For years, I believed it. For years, I hated myself and my body and no matter what anyone told me, I never thought I was beautiful.
Even after I cut my father out of my life, I felt the sting of his words and heard his voice in my head every time I looked in a mirror. It killed me inside.
It has been 12 years — and I finally believe I am beautiful.
YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL TOO!!
- Remind yourself every day.
- Remind those around you every day
- Find a reason to smile every day"
"I'm planning to have a child with my spouse and their spouse. (Polyamory; look it up). I'm terrified of other people — judging, dismissing, threatening. I just want to delight in my family and child; I don't want to have to be scared of people.
But I'm doing this anyways, because I hope that I'm wrong, and that there are more good people in the world than I hear about in the news. I want this child and this family, in which I've learned more about love than from anyone else.
So. So I'll be brave. And hope."
"He proposed to me three days before my second major surgery since we've known each other. Sometimes I resent my health playing such a major role in our story — in my life — but what can you do? You take what you're dealt. Even though I got this body that's falling apart, I have him too. I'd take him and horrible health every day rather than life without him and perfect health."
"I LOVE AVACADO
I LOVE BANANA
I LOVE SITTING
I LOVE PLAY"
"When I was little and kids asked, 'is your dad in prison?' I felt ashamed. I said, 'I don't know what you're talking about.' Even though it was true.
Now I realize shame is not something someone can make me feel. It's my choice to feel or not and I'm not ashamed anymore.
So yes, kids who are now grown, he was.
But I'm full of joy and pride. And the experience I used to wish had not happened, now I am thankful for — the pain I turned into fuel that propelled me further than I could have ever imagined."
"I am 56. I am a woman who is married to a woman. We have a 7-year-old son who we love dearly. I have worked as a television producer for 30 years. I'm very tired."
"Today the girl I love moved to Paris.
I'm going to move there to be with her.
I don't even speak French. Yet.
But she's ecstatic, so that's all that matters.
That's all there is."
"I have trouble remembering many things.
I sometimes wonder if it's to do with my disinterest in things or if I would just forget most things and conversations and experiences. And if this is how it'll always be, I should change how I live each day.
I loved someone, passionately, fiercely, madly and then went thru a massive heartbreak.
I remember a lot of it and don't remember a lot of it.
I hope to learn to love again — someone, something, and more importantly, myself.
Also, this project is kind of awesome."
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