Hearts will break at The Bull tonight.

Self Narrate, a local storytelling group, looks to help people learn how to express themselves by providing a space and topic to inspire a narrative. Tonight’s meetup is at 7 p.m., and the topic is “Heartbreak Hotel,” intended for people to share stories of some sort of heartbreak.

Brandon Telg, one of the founders of the group, plans to share his heartbreak tonight, a story about how his grandmother’s death affected him and how he moved forward.

“My grandmother loved Elvis Presley,” Telg said. “She had merchandise all over the house. I remember she had a doll of a dog that if you’d squeeze it, it would sing ‘Hound Dog.’”

The goal of Self Narrate is to empower people to realize the significance of their own personal narratives for both themselves and others.

Telg and co-founder Jaron Jones came up with the idea in a interpersonal leadership class. In the class, professor Tony Andenoro asked students to share a 20-minute personal narrative describing a moment in time that had a strong impact on them and how they  changed.

“We found it difficult to be vulnerable in front of people and tell stories that we even kept from ourselves,” Jones said. “As we told our stories, we felt motivated and empowered.”

For many students, this was the first time they were asked about their personal narrative, and it was hard to come up with significant events.

After getting to know each other through their narratives and the class, the pair decided to work on the class final together: an ambiguous instruction to create change.

“We knew that for our change, we were going to give people in the community and surrounding area the power to tell their stories as well,” he said.

First, the duo hit focal points on campus with a piece of white copy paper inscribed, “Tell me a story, and I’ll give you a dollar.” But even college kids walked past the sign, averting their eyes worrying about some sort of catch or trick.

“They thought they didn’t have any story important enough to tell,” Jones said. “We knew we couldn’t stop doing this.”

After the class ended, their final project was not forgotten. Out of it emerged Self Narrate to give people opportunities to tell as many different personal stories.

“Finding the passion for narrative, specifically personal narrative, and helping others grow through having other people understanding what their narrative is,” Telg said, “radically changed my life.”

He went from a low point in his life to becoming a changed person by having an avenue to express himself and listen to others’ experiences.

“It helped me see that my experiences are OK, the things that I’ve been through can be seen as positive. Other people can grow through my experiences.” 

Now, Telg feels more positive, more optimistic and well-adjusted, and he attributes it to simply sharing his own narrative.

For Jones, the communication he was having with himself and others helped him find himself. He quit a stable job working for the government to pursue a Ph.D. After discovering reclaiming his narrative, he knew.

“This is it. This is what I was put onto this Earth to do.”

[A version of this story ran on page 8 on 1/15/2015 under the headline “Heartbreak stories tonight at The Bull downtown"]

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Emily Cardinali

Emily Cardinali is the freelance editor of the Alligator and a 20-year-old journalism and Chinese senior. She hopes to work for NPR and have a black pug named Fat Warren.