My name is Erisa. “That’s a pretty name,” some people say when I introduce myself. Then: “Where is it from?” Perhaps Erisa is a name from an exotic part of the world. (It’s not.) Or maybe it means something in a foreign language. (It doesn’t.)
“Where is it from?” they ask.
“A license plate,” I reply.
Yes. My mom was driving around, pregnant with me, her soon-to-be third daughter, and she needed a name that started with “E” to match my older sisters. She saw “ERISA” on a license plate and thought, like most of the people I meet, that’s a pretty name. Only it’s not a name. In 7th grade, I Googled my “name” and learned it’s an acronym for a law: “Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.” This piece of legislation is apparently so complex and/or important that there are lawyers who specialize in it. Like the lawyer who was driving that car the day my mom found the perfect name for her third daughter.
I love telling this story, which is good because I have to tell it often, probably becase of how unexpected it is. People ask a simple question and end up with this complex response. They learn a little bit about me, my family, and a United States law. This is also what I love about all stories in general: they are always teaching, be it in broad strokes like the morals of a fable or in the narrow focus of one person’s particular perspective on life. Stories have the capacity to bridge gaps between diverse groups of people through shared experiences and emotions. And this is why I tell stories: to connect.
Over the past two years, I’ve developed my and refined my storytelling. I’ve produced a fiction piece published in a climate change, dystopian anthology and a non-fiction piece published in Story Club Magazine, an online magazine. I’ve told my stories on the radio and in a podcast I created to share the live storytelling events in Taipei with the world. My most recent project is a podcast exploring individuals’ identities through discussion of their life histories. One goal of this project is to connect people of diverse backgrounds by acknowledging our commonalities without sacrificing individual differences.
Ultimately I believe storytelling is fundamental to the success of the human race. By sharing our experiences and perspectives, we give nuance and complexity to a world that is constantly trying to be divided into incomplete, black and white, us vs. them, parts.
Let me help you tell your story. We can connect the world.
*Written as a rough introductory letter to a guy who’s looking for someone to help him write his autobiography.