By Jong Won, Lifewriting intern
November 9, 2018
If I could describe Pangaea [the forerunner of EmPowerWriting] in one sentence, I would say that it is a workshop that creates an open space of discussion and community; fostering connecting with the self and the other. We began the class with basic introductions by the workshop founder Marcel, and Leadership Consultant Eva Manole. We followed it up with a quick exercise on self awareness. Eva Manole discussed the concept of the “invisible sticky note.” In this exercise, with partners we carried a conversation and afterwards wrote down three features about the other that we felt best described the other. Before you ask, “How could you judge someone so quickly!?”, don’t worry, it was a light-hearted exercise not meant to determine one’s identity—but like I said—to foster self-awareness. Eva discusses the concept of thin-slicing or “tid-bits of behaviour that come across to others instantly.” Through the process of visiting my own invisible sticky note and those of others in a self conscious environment, it taught me to consider snap judgments and why they may occur. Overall, I thought I gained better self awareness of how my actions may be perceived by others as well as teaching me to be more empathetic to how others present themselves.
Next, Marcel ran the group through a Lifewriting exercise called Fish Out Of Water, in which we were instructed to write about an experience where we felt totally out of our environment. We started with idea webs and dived into a session of free writing. Afterwards, we separated ourselves into groups of three to four where we told our stories to each other! Initially, I had written about my experience tree planting in the summer, but I decided to tell the group what was really on my mind. I opened up to them about the depression I’ve been struggling with for the past year and a half, telling them all the thoughts that have been going through my mind and the changes my identity has gone through. Mind you, I would not have told them my story if I had not felt comfortable and I’m very glad I did. In fact, I felt the three other members of my group had much more interesting stories than I did! One woman’s life seemed like an epic on its own, she spoke about her challenges of falling in love with someone in a different caste, as well the hardships of immigrating to Canada. Another woman had just a few months prior dropped everything in her life to go on a road trip, a journey where she learned much about herself and grew stronger as an individual. The friendly nature of the hosts and members around me were what allowed me to open myself up to these individuals, and I felt a connection that carried with me for the rest of the week. I cannot express how important I feel these workshops to be; to open up yourself to others and to be accepted with open arms, creates essential topics of discussion around mental illness, forms of discrimination and other forms of contention in our society. Like John Lennon said, “Love is the answer.”