The Narratives that Frame Our Existence
We are each called to story.
In 2004, as a doctoral student at the University of Virginia, I conducted a Narrative Inquiry Study on how the children in one second grade, urban classroom used their Critical Story to make sense of their membership in a community. A Critical Story is not an everyday telling of carpools and lunches, but the raw recordings of the moments that shape our existence and document our difference.
Our lives, in this sense, are not a collection of isolated events but slow-motion moments interwoven through memories. Some flutter in and out, while others remain on replay in our mind’s recorder. This fading out, in, and together determines how we show up and process our lifetimes.
My own Critical Story is one of dancing on the periphery of the campfire, mesmerized by the every day of my environment. I shared my eurekas artistically, encouraged by my middle and high school art teacher, Mrs. Paulette, who delighted when I pushed boundaries and painted renditions, not at all representative of the world most experienced. At a young age, she gave me the courage to be bold as I claimed my identity.
My Critical Story of seeing the world anew and questioning the status quo of the every day, was further supercharged by Jane Hansen, my Doctoral Chair, who invited me to show my learning across specialties and mediums, teaching me that when people “show what they know” creatively they both deepen their understandings and broaden their perspectives – lessons I took into my elementary through graduate school classrooms where I taught.
As an adult, I continue to hold tightly to the questions of childhood, the ones many start to silence as they grow up and want to fit in.
Over the last four years, I have collected the Critical Stories of creatives who are highly principled, care deeply for their work, and though typically non-confrontational, are not afraid to speak up against injustices. This propensity to wonder, question, and jostle the status quo – made them targets of workplace bullying. In an effort to silence their Critical Stories, workplace aggressors used gossip, manipulation, sabotage, exclusion, and gaslighting to defame their reputations and push them out of jobs they loved.
Many of us experience these chapters of emotional abuse, discharges of other’s pains and insecurities that leave us alone on our front porch as former friends flee out of fear of being targeted next.
This site captures the Critical Stories of targets of workplace bullying, provides an explanation of the typical trajectory of the abuse, and offers resources and help for healing from the trauma and rising stronger to do good work.
What is your Critical Story? How does your Critical Story impact your membership in a community? How, why, and when have people tried to silence your plotlines?