This story comes to us from our friends at Junction Europe, an initiative of JDC, YESOD and the Schusterman Foundation that seeks to empower young Jewish adults and professionals to engage with the pan-European Jewish community through innovative international opportunities and retreats. Below, Ariel Constantinof recounts his experience at D&A, a gathering of young storytellers looking to explore what it means to be Jewish in Europe.
Ariel Constantinof was born in Israel and moved to Romania at the age of seven. He is a fulltime blogger and writer, loves riding his bicycle and taking photos. In 2013 he crowdfunded his first book in 24 hours.
I started blogging almost 10 years ago, in September 2006. I was 15 years old and life was just a huge game, as it should be. It only took me 7 months to get national attention with my blog and childish writing abilities.
In April 2007 my name was all over the Romanian press: in newspapers, at the morning radio shows and on TV.
The reason? My school wanted to kick me out and I blogged about the whole situation.
Why kick me out? Because I was blogging about things happening at school, like: kids sleeping during classes, dialogues between some of my arrogant colleagues and our teachers, about the bad food we got during lunch breaks and so on…
My parents didn’t know how to handle the situation. I was a silent kid, with decent grades, who would usually sit in the first bench in class because I was refusing to wear my eye-glasses so I couldn’t see what was written on the blackboard.
I didn’t really have friends in school simply because I was not cool, I guess.
At that moment my daily-life was split in to two parts: my way to school and back with the tram through the city… about 40-50 minutes in the morning and 30-40 minutes in the afternoon, usually with my smaller sister, Iris. And my time during school, from 8 AM till 5 PM. Quite simple, right?
So my blog was split exactly the same: I had stories from my daily tram routine, but I also had stories from my school. To put it short: that was my life back then. And I would blog about it a few times a day.
I never had writing abilities. Actually, right before opening the blog, in September 2006, my Romanian teacher told me I won’t pass the high-school exam because my writing was really bad.
She was wrong: not only have I passed the exam with 8.36 out of 10, but just a few months later she was one of the teachers who was struggling to kick me out of school because of my great writing abilities. Isn’t that ironic?
Long story short: my story went viral
and almost everybody was on my side. I was an observer, a storyteller, and I would blog about my daily life in school. Everything I was posting was true and I had the freedom to post it. They couldn’t kick me out of school and, somehow, I won my first serious battle.
I realized then that I was not just a 15 year old kid with no friends and bad eyesight.
The day after I went viral all the kids at school were (or acted as if they were) my best friends. They all knew or found out about my blog and my stories from school and they could all resonate with them. I was actually telling their stories without even knowing.
Blogging changed my life at that exact moment. I realized that I have a huge power if I use the tools I have for a cause.
I started blogging to change the world around me. I created events with 500 cyclists in my city, I started an NGO to promote cycling, I blogged about every little thing that I thought was wrong around me and tried to find solutions to make it better.
I started seeking for stories so I could tell them on my blog. I started telling those stories to make a better world and, most of the time, I think I succeeded.
I think that in our everyday life we face really small moments that we ignore. We think they are not important. Later on, usually many years later, we have the opportunity to realize that those small moments actually changed our life radically. That moment for me was the moment I decided to open up a blog, just to see how it works.
At the beginning of July 2016 I attended D&A, a storytelling-conference-workshop-event in Berlin. I never thought of myself as a storyteller, actually. I attended the event mainly thinking I would meet new people who blog around the world. And I did meet those people. And they are great!
But what actually impacted me at D&A was the fact that now I know for sure that I’m a storyteller. I now think of myself as a professional storyteller. And I think I’m “in this field” for about 10 years now. And it feels great!
I realized I was doing something great without even knowing I was doing it.
D&A made me think of all those times I blogged and changed something for others. It made me think of myself and my ability to tell stories as a super-hero and his ability to fly. And it feels good.
Thanks for changing my life! (does this sound too big? if it does… well… it shouldn’t… it’s actually true.)
The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or program participants.