Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you?
My name is Pelletier. I'm the great granddaughter of Agnes Pelletier. It is really special to hold her last name as my first name - people always get confused. I am now 27 years old, living in Mohkinstsis and I work for a wonderful organization, Canada Bridges. I have a new role at Bridges where my main role is Storytelling, which is really cool. I consider myself a Storyteller.
What does being a Storyteller mean to you?
There are so many different ways that people can be Storytellers. Storytelling can be fact or fiction, it can be to share wisdom or warnings or to pass down history. Storytelling can look like singing, acting, writing, rapping, art, beading, all the different forms. I am very much an oral Storyteller.
I love that Storytelling can connect people, and help us have empathy towards others. My way of Storytelling is to let people know that they are not alone. I also consider myself a Story Catcher. By Story Catching, I don't mean that I'm out here trying to steal stories or take them! Story Catchers are able to catch stories that might go unheard, unseen or unvalued. I want to be a place for people to share, a person that listens and empowers others to tell their stories.
We all hold these different wisdoms and knowledges and lessons, and while it is OK to keep them to ourselves, there is this beautiful thing where we can share them and others can learn from them too. We can connect and we can leave people with our stories.
Brene Brown has left a huge impact on me about connection, vulnerability and feeling worthy, and I think with me being a Storyteller, I've unlocked that in myself. Being able to be vulnerable, being able to feel strong when sharing my story, feeling like I'm making a difference and that others know they aren’t alone. I think sometimes telling the hard stuff takes a lot of energy, but it’s a lot of freedom in being able to do it. You don't have to tell everything, but shame has a harder time being overpowering or debilitating when it is in the light. Darkness and keeping things secret can eat away at you. But when you connect and share, you can hold each other up, which is really when shame can't stay - it dispels. I think that's why I'm a storyteller.
You have been piloting Story Jam Workshops - can you tell us more about them? How have they been going and what have you been learning?
Story Jams were at first just a lead up to our annual A Youth Explosion event. I had started on the team and had an idea of these spaces where youth could experience a different type of Storytelling in preparation for A Youth Explosion. And it was really cool being a brand new staff member to have no restrictions on what I could do. People were like "yes, go, try it out, and if it doesn’t work out we'll learn from it". It was all about the learning. So we had these Story Jam nights where people came out, we had youth lead them. We had a drum night, a paint night, and what I really saw is that people love Storytellling – it isn't just me. People love connecting in that way.
I saw that it was an opportunity to reach out to community as well. It's not just youth that need Storytelling, it's everyone. Story Jams are a unique opportunity for youth to be the storytellers and facilitators and to have youth lead. BIPOC youth are usually given the least opportunities to be storytellers and to lead. Story Jams are a really unique space where genuine authentic Storytelling can come from youth, and us as community get to join in and be a part of it. It is more than just a workshop where you can go and attend; you really become part of the circle. They are very authentic and very brave spaces. This seedling has really blossomed, and it’s so cool to see how it has grown.
You are someone that empowers other people. What is the magic behind your approach?
It's not magic, it's all the other people who have empowered me. I have a crowd of people who surround me, and who love me and who teach me and keep me going. I have the privilege to pass on their words and encourage others because I've been encouraged in that way. I think the world can been dark sometimes, negative or missing pieces, and I've always wanted to fill those places with light. Knowing those feelings, I want to be a person who can comfort others. Now that I have support, I can share it with others.
Sometimes when I think of myself as someone who empowers others, the imposter syndrome or self-critical voice comes in to say I'm not, or that I don't. But that's not true. We all have gifts and talents and I have to be proud of myself for who I am, and be thankful for the people in my life who have encouraged me to be this person. I have an amazing team of friends and found family who encourage me, and it just ripples out for me.
What have you been learning about yourself over the last few years?
As a Storyteller, or someone who is an encourager or empowerer, you have to realize that you need rest and you have to also empower yourself. Burnout is so easy for people who are empathetic. Sometimes Story Catchers are catching hard stories and taking them home, or being unable to shed them off. You can carry them with you. Sometimes you are doing too much of the Story Catching and the weight gets heavy. Self-care is the biggest thing I'm learning.
I'm also learning self-empowerment. I can't just depend on other people to tell me who I am or what I am good at. I need those people to remind me of the truth, but there comes a time when you have to be able to tell yourself those truths. That's the most powerful thing when you can be your own champion or motivator. When you speak more kindly to yourself, you are less tired, and not that it gets easier, but you don't have a ball and chain because you aren't fighting against yourself. Being able to self -identify your gifts and your talents and knowledges gives space for a lot of reflection and being able to be proud and strengthened by those things.
Self-care has been a big learning. I reached burn out and needed lots of help to come out. But now I'm on the path of being able to help myself and live more in balance. When you realize something is off balance, you need to stop, take a minute and readjust. Do I need to eat? Sleep? Talk nicer to myself? Do I need to take a break? Do I need to get out and exercise, breathe in the fresh air? Learning to pause, learning to take care, has been important for me.
What are your hopes for the future?
If you would have asked me this question 5 years ago, I might have answered with "I would like my own house, to be making a lot of money, owning my own business" and other things that I thought were success. But my idea of success has changed so much. Now, I think being successful is having a lot of joy in your life and being able to be happy. We are always going to have mountains in our life, and forest fires, but being able to find joy in the chaos and craziness of the world is important.
Accepting all the other emotions is important too – the anger, sadness and loneliness. And I hope that I don't forget how important it is to have a support team for empowerment, all those people in my corner to lean on. I don't want to get to a place where I think independence is just doing everything on your own and not asking for help, a kin d of perfectionism. I think independence means that you call out for help, you have maturity and understanding that we are in this together and we need to connect.
So my hope for the future is that I keep doing internal digging and unpacking of myself, that I use the balance and self-care to keep my empathetic heart, not shutting it down. I don't know where I will be in the future, but I want to keep learning and growing and enjoying being me – pushing out the self-critical voice that says I need to be different.