A reprint from 18 months ago, as I prepare to speak tomorrow....

The founders of Storytime [09s] are soon to graduate, and though heaps of accolades have already been given to them, especially in the form of the Grosvenor Memorial Cup. However, I think readers near and far should know about the scope of Storytime's achievement.

I and others here sometimes speak of the legendary "Williams Woman" or "Williams Man." This person is a true polymath - he or she excels physically through WOC or a varsity athletic team, artistically expresses him or herself through music, theater, or visual art, and carries a high GPA on the side, while maintaining close friendships and near universal respect. WEPO, JAing, or other campus honors are also the norm for this person. This ideal Eph is created, I think, through an amalgamation of various respected students on campus who have excelled in some of these areas, though not all. This legend is the yardstick that I sometimes compare myself too, enabled by a few real seniors who do seem to excel in all areas.

This myth of "effortless perfection" has been the subject of studies, Gargoyle conversations, and presentations across campus, some before my own time. I'm curious to see if it was around in the days of some of the alum on this blog.

Nevertheless, the myth is alive and well today, with one exception. Storytime is one moment when hierarchy disintegrates: there is only a speaker and an audience, with a facilitator who makes any needed announcements, such as the name of the cookies going around (Tonight: Chex Mix w/ chocolate, peanut butter, and something else)

Like any good tale, such stories usually involve some combination of hardship, trial, and conflict, often along with redemption in the form of loving friends or mentors. But they are always profound - Storytime has become a place to share the history that has shaped a person's character. I often hear of invitations to Storytime by speakers to their friends, who have often heard nothing or a small piece of the deep and powerful narrative of the speaker's experience until that night, along with a group of utter strangers entrusted with the same secrets. It is a place of vulnerability, bound by an unwritten covenant of shared support. I am almost always left discovering something about myself in hearing about others; sometimes realizing a blessing that had gone unnoticed earlier in life, or a hidden value in common experience that I had not yet seen.

But mostly, I hear about times when some of the people I looked up to most had the deepest troubles - the facade is pulled away, and we see each other as we see ourselves - as flawed creatures simply trying to do the best with what we have in life. Storytime is a place of common comfort - where a crowd can support the speaker, and the speaker support the crowd. My life at Williams is better for those gatherings at 9 in Henze lounge, and I look forward to the last of the semester and the other stories in years to come.