Ori­gin Sto­ries: Find­ing her voice anew

StarMetro Toronto - - VIEWS - Ori­gin Sto­ries

As I stood at the bar with three peo­ple from my im­prov class, I sud­denly had an idea.

Try­ing not to smirk, I ar­ranged my face to look full of dis­dain, and said, “Not again! EV­ERY­ONE in this bar is check­ing me out. This AL­WAYS hap­pens, it’s SO an­noy­ing.”

Dead­pan­ning that I love my­self was one of my favourite jokes! I waited for them to fall about laugh­ing.

In­stead, si­lence. The three of them shot un­com­fort­able looks at each other.

I guess I’m not funny in Canada. A di er­ence in sense of hu­mour was one of the things I wasn’t ex­pect­ing when I de­cided to move from Lon­don, UK to Toronto in 2011. An­other was how hard it was. Mak­ing new friends in your thir­ties — when you’re not at school or out on the lash ev­ery night — isn’t easy. I took im­prov, but didn’t click with any­one out­side of class.

I couldn’t meet peo­ple at work — be­cause I didn’t have a job. In the UK, my ca­reer looked wildly suc­cess­ful. I was a ra­dio DJ and a mu­sic su­per­vi­sor for hit TV shows.

Deep down, I knew that I wanted to do some­thing di er­ent, but I didn’t know what. Switch­ing ca­reers as I was switch­ing con­ti­nents seemed like a nat­u­ral break — I would ig­ure this out in Canada!

I hadn’t an­tic­i­pated that, while ev­ery­thing else is chang­ing, throw­ing a gi­ant iden­tity cri­sis into the mix wasn’t the smartest idea.

Feel­ing lost, lonely and with no idea where my life was go­ing hit me hard. For the irst time ever, I felt sui­ci­dal.

I knew I needed help. So I found a ther­a­pist.

I also started forc­ing my­self to leave the house and go to events. Through my im­prov class­mates, I learned about a live sto­ry­telling show.

Chat­ting af­ter­wards to the host, Erin Rodgers, I con­fessed that I wanted to start my own night. She ex­plained, “There’s a huge sto­ry­telling scene in Toronto, and we’d wel­come you. Do it!”

A month later, I sat in The Com­mon cafe with Other than my mum and my friends, the only thing I miss about Lon­don is wood and vel­vet-chaired “old man” pubs that don’t have gi­ant TV screens. But hip­ster co ee shops are a good re­place­ment! the ive peo­ple I’d asked to speak and an au­di­ence of three. We all loved the show. So I put on an­other, and an­other.

Soon, oth­ers in the Toronto sto­ry­telling scene started show­ing up, plug­ging my show, and ask­ing me to per­form. Ev­ery­one was ac­cept­ing and en­cour­ag­ing. Within a year, True Sto­ries Toronto had moved to The Gar­ri­son. Each month, 150 200 peo­ple were — and are still! — show­ing up.

Still in ca­reer cri­sis, I made friends with some lo­cal en­trepreneurs. They told me, “You know how you coach the sto­ry­tellers ev­ery week for your show? You could do that for money.” I’d never heard of coach­ing be­fore. In the UK, peo­ple are even skep­ti­cal of ther­apy!

I launched my busi­ness, Yes Yes Mar­sha, and started get­ting clients.

Now, my full-time job is help­ing peo­ple tell true sto­ries on stage or on­line, do­ing talks about the power of sto­ry­telling and run­ning work­shops for com­pa­nies. I can’t be­lieve I get to make a liv­ing from help­ing peo­ple con­nect and build trust us­ing per­sonal sto­ries. It’s SO FUN! Mean­while, I fell madly in love with Toronto. I dis­cov­ered how many in­cred­i­ble live events the city has, like Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids, High Stakes Sto­ry­telling, Tram­po­line Hall, and PressGang.

I bike ev­ery­where. In Lon­don, I was far too scared to do that!

I love how close by na­ture is. In an hour, you can be in the coun­try­side, or just bike for 10 min­utes and ind your­self deep in the woods of High Park.

When peo­ple hear my ac­cent and ask me whether I’m plan­ning to stay in Toronto, I smile, then show them my an­kle, where I now have a tat­too of the CN Tower.

I’m home. lives on the west end of Toronto af­ter leav­ing her na­tive Eng­land in 2011.

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