I believe in a lot of what this show is trying to do—showing vulnerability at Duke, showing what’s below the surface. A lot of times Duke students project an image that ends up perpetuating our loneliness because we don’t see other people are struggling like we are. I just wanted to be part of a project that helps empower and at the same time humble students.
One of the major tasks of young adulthood is to develop the capacities of perspective taking and empathy necessary to understand the mental and emotional states of others. We know that personal narratives are powerful in evoking shared emotional experiences and fostering perspective taking and when accompanied by self-reflection can be transformative. Me Too Monologues, with its powerful enactment of authentic narratives, provides opportunities for personal transformation as well-enhanced understanding and support of others throughout the Duke community. The fact that Me Too Monologues is an initiative conceived, led, and provided by students enhances its authenticity and impact.
Me Too Monologues makes me proud to go to Duke. The fact that so many people come together to create and watch the show makes me realize that there is, indeed, more than meets the eye when it comes to this student body. I’m exceedingly happy that this kind of ‘conversation’ can not only exist, but thrive on campus.
I remember the first time Me Too Monologues were performed on campus, and I was struck then by how powerful it was one a number of levels. To see how it has grown, both in audience size and in stature on campus, is incredibly encouraging as students grow increasingly conscious of the issues facing marginalized students at Duke—-an in society, as a whole. What amazes me is how the Monologues have continued to serve the Duke community on two critical levels: it provides a very human expression, with all the emotional and intellectual complexity of life, of the reality that many students live but often lack a voice of validation. In doing so, it also serves to educate those who lack awareness of how different (and often very difficult) their peers’ experiences are, prompting a greater sensitivity and respect for the many different communities that make up Duke University.
I felt completely lost and out of my place my freshmen year at Duke. I had sunk into an incredibly deep depression where I had convinced myself that I was utterly, entirely alone. The devil that sits on each of our shoulders had completely won the battle over my mind, degrading and desecrating my self-worth on a daily basis. I considered transferring. I considered taking a semester off. Then, I saw Me Too Monologues and I realized I was wrong. I wasn’t alone. There were other people here at this school, other people that felt isolated and confused and scared and sad. I found myself listening to some of the testimonials and thinking this is me, too. Because people fake it. They craft this superficial persona that they strictly abide by, in social interactions and on social media. But deep down, everyone has their issues. Everyone has something they’re insecure about, or terrified of, or self-conscious of. I went home that night and wrote my story about feeling different and depressed and failing at being someone I wasn’t, and the following year, I watched someone else perform my monologue on stage. As I watched my story, I hoped there was someone else out in the audience who felt lost and scared and alone. I hoped that he or she heard my story and thought, “wait— me, too.
Me Too Monologues is an effective vehicle in identifying campus-wide social issues and sparking dialogue among and between students, staff and faculty.
As a writer for Me Too Monologues 2013, one of the most empowering experiences I have ever had was putting emotions that I had never previously expressed to anyone down on paper and witnessing those words performed on stage, coming to life in ways I never could have imagined. The pride and fulfillment continued far past Me Too Monologues, as individuals – both those who knew I had written and those who didn’t – praised my monologue and told me how much it had meant to them. Everyone deserves that voice. Whether they are the writer, the actor, or the spectator, it is our duty to provide that opportunity to individuals. I want to make Duke the kind of place… where self-expression and self-exploration are encouraged by all. I don’t want to feel like I am concealing facts or telling half-truths when I talk about how incredible Duke is and how much I love it – it is because I unequivocally believe that it is an extraordinary place and I love it with all of my heart that I believe it can be better. It won’t ever be perfect, but the only way to improve it is through dialogue and self-reflection. Me Too Monologues has started that process.
[Sitting in the audience is like] hearing a Dear Diary entry or a confession to your closest friend or a secret that has never been told before. Monologue after monologue allows you to take residence in someone else’s head for a few minutes, and connect with each distinctive perspective through laughter, tears, and pure felt emotion. Suddenly, you find yourself able to connect with complete strangers as you realize their emotions, trials, and tribulations are not so strange. Muscles are to gym, as empathy is to Me Too.
Following Me Too Monologues, we have an increase in students coming to talk about their experiences as victims of sexual assault. It is powerful to hear these stories out loud to help survivors understand that what they experienced is viewed by their peers as traumatic. Students also hear their peers say supportive and encouraging things about the monologues and they come to understand that perhaps if they share their story and get some help for it that they will be believed.
Under the veil of anonymity, students bring forth stories we would only hear in the most intimate of late night dorm room discussions. In Me Too, we hear amazing stories about facing the death of a parent, racial discrimination, sexual assault, figuring out one’s career. Me Too challenges the notion that students are always okay and successful and brings forth narratives about students’ vulnerability. This year, we reached 1900 students, almost a third of the student body. Each year after Me Too, our center for Counseling and Psychological Services reports more students coming in to talk. Seeing people bring forth their silenced narratives onstage, students are more willing to bring forth their silenced narratives in real life.
Storytelling is the thread to the quilt of our lives. Without narrative, whether oral or written, we are like random patchwork and our existence lacks meaning and connectivity. On a campus where students admittedly hide their stories, opportunities to encourage and foster storytelling are imperative. Me Too Monologues provides students a monumental chance to write and orate experience and existence at Duke. The show is magical, not just because it provokes an array of emotions and thoughts, but because it reminds us what it means to live, to connect and to be wonderfully quilted human beings.