Ball State community members are getting personal and sharing their stories with the world through the Dear World project. 

Dear World is an organization that travels in search of people's stories and creating a portrait project with them. Until 3 p.m. today, an area to brainstorm, write and have a photograph taken will be set up on the first floor of the David Letterman building.

Participants are given the chance to write phrases on parts of their bodies, like their arms and chests, for personal portraits. Without knowing what the words mean, it may not make sense why the picture is being taken, but to the person in the picture, it is a very personal experience.

Kaia Thompson, senior communication major was inspired to share her story.

Thompson was in 8th grade when her parents divorced.

“During that time it was very difficult for my family, to say the least, and it really took me to try to go to faith and start believing in God and developing that relationship,” Thompson said. “It was just a really difficult time when they were going through that divorce, and having those conflicting messages from both parents but trying to obey the Bible that’s like ‘listen to your parents.' 

"For me family is very important and to be loved is import. During that time I don’t think I felt either.”

While considering what Thompson should write on herself, her eyes began to swell up as she realized she has not fully moved on from that experience. She keeps herself busy from day to day to keep it off her mind. 

Thompson was inspired to write “We were broken. Have I healed?” on her arms.

“I don’t like to cry, so crying in front of people is the annoying part, but I know that divorce isn’t like my own story that only I go through,” she said. “I know that it’s something that a lot of people go through so, to get it out, maybe you can find a community or people who understand and that’s the best part of it.”

Casandra Corrales, storyteller for Dear World, said the point of the portrait project is to connect people with their stories.

“It helps that we have a picture and people get that artifact for sure, but ultimately we have found that people want to share something about themselves when they are given that opportunity,” Corrales said. 

“We actually don’t get that opportunity a ton to share something about ourselves, right? We’re told that we need to be selfless and it’s about other people, which is great, but ultimately if we can’t take care of ourselves and we can’t own our own then there is no way we can be there for somebody else.”

Casey Schultz, academic advisor and recruiter, conveys her message with the goal of helping others while expressing herself. 

On Schultz’s arm, the phrase “Don’t be the bunny,” is written. 

“There’s this viral video on Facebook of this wild animal called a stoat, and it hunts rabbits,” Schultz said. “In order to get the rabbit to let its guard down, the stoat does a lot of kind of erratic and crazy behaviors. It’s always like flopping around and trying to distract the rabbit, so when it lets its guard down, the stoat attacks.

"I do a lot of online dating, and one of the ladies in the office compares that to me online dating and she’s always telling me ‘don’t be the bunny, don’t be distracted by that mesmerizing behavior.’”

Schultz is known to make the best out of any situation and has experienced rejection, which is why she wants to encourage other people not to “be the bunny.”

“I’ve met some people online that I thought were really nice and turned out to be pretty awful, so anytime you have to kind of relive those experiences it makes it a little bit harder to kind of continue on,” Schultz said. “You hear a lot of mean things and it makes it a bit harder to kind of jump back into the dating pool when you get hurt.”

The goal with Schultz’s saying, however, is not to discourage online dating.

“I did pull back for a while and then I thought, 'that's not getting me anywhere, I’m not meeting anyone new by not putting myself out there,'” Schultz said. “It’s more of turning the negative experiences into a fun thing and kind of talking to people about it to remove those stigmas about online dating. Hopefully in the long run it works out for more people and me too.”

To make sure that everyone participating feels comfortable and confident in what message they are portraying, volunteers and a team from Dear World are there to help.

“We ourselves have been facilitated in that sense of how do we handle emotions and how do we handle emotions with people so we have a better sense of how to deal with that,” Corrales said. “Also, just being able to be the example for other people like there is no reason to run away from emotion, we all have it.”

The Dear World Team will be in Pruis Hall tonight at 7 p.m. to share their favorite stories from the Ball State project. The event is open to everyone, even those who did not have their portrait taken.