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‘The Shoemaker’ by Iris Casteren van Cattenburch

March 2022. As a co-organizer of the Connecting through Voices project, I am participating in Teti’s Digital Storytelling Workshop, together with 12 students from Erasmus University Rotterdam, our initiator Sonja and co-facilitator Laura.

Our first assignment is to take a picture of something that symbolizes our path to the university, to share at the first session. In my mind I go back 30 years in time. And I think of that old cobbler on a summer holiday in Cornwall, who cut me a piece of leather and promised it would help me on my path. I dig it out of the yellowed shoebox in my closet.

This digital story was created as part of a Digital Storytelling Workshop run through the ‘Connecting through Voice’ project at Erasmus University Rotterdam in 2022.

None of those present knew what it was, when Teti showed my piece of leather via Zoom the next morning. But to me, that piece of leather symbolizes the courage I’ve needed for my transition moments over the past 30 years. And so I tell my story about the cobbler.

The assignment for the second session – to write a script – brought me deeper into my memory and closer to my feelings. As I was writing, I realized how decisive symbols and metaphors can be for the final push to take on something that seemed almost unattainable. And I wondered if my perspective would resonate with the students who also participated in the course.

But something wonderful happened when we shared our stories. We ‘crawled’ into each other’s story, felt what the other felt, understood their meaning. I was absorbed in the beautiful life stories of 13 people. We didn’t sit next to each other in a lecture hall, yet we weren’t just puppets on a screen. Perhaps precisely thanks to Zoom, I saw the mimicry on the faces, heard their voices even more directly through my headphones. Teti weaved our stories through our life experiences and insights. And we hit something universal.

That universality is difficult to describe. It is something that presented itself in the moment because we were all receptive to a meaning we were each seeking. And which we found in the reciprocity of our exchange.

Digital Storytelling is learning from yourself, from the other, and from each other. Thank you all for this uplifting experience.