Our monthly Alumni/ae Tuesday Guest Post series on the VDS Voices blog highlights posts written by VDS and GDR alumni/ae. Hear firsthand about their important work in the community, collaborations with other alumni/ae and faculty, and much more.
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If would like to contribute a post to the Alumni/ae Tuesday Guest Post series, or participate in our Alumni/ae Instagram Takeover Day, please email Addie Sullivan (email@example.com)
in the Vanderbilt Divinity School Alumni/ae office.
I’ve written about the origin of my blog hundreds of times, or at least it feels as if I have. You probably don’t know about it; not many people do, and that’s okay. It’s growing. It’s becoming something, so let me tell you about it how it came into being.
I was graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity School in 2014 with absolutely no idea what I was doing in terms of finding a job. I’m happy to say that after a lot of searching (and so much stress) I do have a job, a good job, one that actually utilizes my degree on a daily basis. Don’t worry, those of you on the cusp of graduation; it can be done.
Aside from securing an actual grown-up job, there is something else that came out of my time at Vanderbilt of which I am much more proud—My Blog: HerStory. HerStory developed from my field education work at Thistle Farms, a nonprofit and social enterprise here in Nashville that helps women who have survived trafficking, addiction, and life on the street. I spent most of my last year of divinity school working alongside the women in this program and learning their stories. In the last few months of my internship, I started a creative writing class that met every Tuesday afternoon. I assumed one or two women would show up; we would write silly stories, and that would be the end of it. I didn’t have big hopes. I had never taught a creative writing class, but to my surprise, on that first day, there were nearly twenty women sitting in the room. It was three years ago, and I still remember the lump in my throat from the overwhelming emotions of so many women wanting to write.
I figured out quickly that the women were not there to write goofy stories. They weren’t there for a creative writing class. They were there because they were ready to write about life. They were ready to write about their real and raw experiences, and they were ready to talk about their journey to healing. I realized their main reason for writing wasn’t to be creative but to tell their stories, to get their truth on paper for other people to read and understand.
As the women wrote, I wrote. My story was different but in a lot of ways the same. My search for love and belonging rang just as true as theirs. I wondered: Did more women have stories to tell to which no one was listening? I studied history in college and specifically studied women’s history. Isn’t that funny—women get their own section of history—as if we all aren’t living in the same world? As if all of our histories don’t overlap? I thought about women, and I thought about history, and I wondered how many voices were being left out because their stories weren’t “interesting” or simply because they were the stories of women and weren’t important enough for the history books.
During my last weeks of divinity school, I spent hours writing out plans for HerStory, a blog that would empower women by giving them a space to tell their own stories. I filled an entire notebook with ideas while I should have been paying attention to my theological ethics lecture (sorry Victor Anderson!). It took me an entire year to work up the courage to start the blog. Would women want to tell their stories, I wondered? Would they trust the space I was creating? Would they just think my idea was lame, boring, and who knows what else? Of course they did not. The blog was embraced almost immediately by my friends, by acquaintances, and most astounding of all, by women all over the world. Women I had never met started writing in and sending me their stories. They told me how inspiring they found the blog, how wonderful it was that there was a space for women to write and be creative and not be judged. I was overwhelmed, overjoyed, and humbled.
It has been a year and two months since I officially started the blog, and its becoming more than I ever dreamed. Every time people asked me how divinity school has helped me in life, I tell them about HerStory. I tell them about how I believe when we understand our own narrative we can better understand the world. I tell them how I never would have discovered this truth unless I had been given that year at Thistle Farms where I listened to the stories of beautiful women, thought about my own story, and wondered if there were anyone out there who was looking for a place to be heard. I believed there was, so I created a space—and into that space flooded stories and voices from some of the most beautiful women I have ever met.