Moth event reveals trauma, but inspires

Photo by Adam Cook
Haley Mikkelson speaks at a Moth-inspired event on campus.

Haley Mikkelsen didn’t know how it happened.

He was the exact opposite of her former boyfriend, Ben, who was short, scrawny and nerdy. They had been sitting on the couch watching Netflix, and he kept trying to move in closer to her, trying to kiss her.

Somehow, he got her clothes off and he was on top of her and she couldn’t get him off.

“He was the opposite of Ben,” Mikkelsen said to the intimate audience, trying to hold back tears. “He was strong, large. I was weak compared to him.”

Mikkelsen didn’t tell anyone about what happened and when she finally told her English teacher a year later, it was too late to press charges against her rapist. But now, she’s going public with her story. “The Moth” is the event to do it at.

“The Moth” is based off the program of the same name on NPR. Students and faculty members gathered to give an unrehearsed speech, roughly 10 minutes long, on any topic.

Castleton professor Candy Fox said she got the idea while teaching her effective speaking course.

“I always have my students do a final speech during finals week,” she said. “I love ‘The Moth,’and I thought, ‘Wow, that could be cool. That could be their final speech.’”

Students in her class spent weeks journaling and listening to “The Moth” on NPR, Fox said. Mikkelsen was in her “Jan-term” effective speaking class. She told the same story.

“It blew me away,” Fox said. “The students did such a great job, and the stories were so amazing, and really powerful. I thought, ‘why can’t we just do a whole campus wide thing?’”

Emma Fagan also spoke at “The Moth” event. She was diagnosed at 10 years old with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma- blood cancer. She went through a year of chemotherapy.

“A lot of things that is not talked about in the cancer community or outside the cancer community is what you do after you’re done with treatments,” she said.

According to Fagan, it goes from getting constant care to no attention whatsoever.

“As a childhood cancer survivor, it was very awkward for me,” she said.

She was in middle school at the time, but even harder is dealing with the aftereffects. Her chemotherapy treatments affected her long-term learning and memory.

“I work at a retirement community and a lot of the residents have better memory than me,” she said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

In one moment, the 11 people gathered in the room were completely silent from the stories being told. In the next, the crowd was laughing as Ryan Surrell told stories of his father who, as he described him, was exactly like “Tim the Tool-man Taylor” from the television show, “Home Improvement.”

“I learned a lot of life lessons just by watching my father.” he said.

His father had always worked for himself, he said.

Surrell has a lot of memories of himself observing his father and his father’s clumsiness including one time when his father tried to install drywall.

While Surrell’s father was installing the drywall Surrell was talking to him and his father drilled the drywall into his own hand because he was not paying attention.

“That’s not the worst part,” Surrell said. “The worst part was the battery died in the drill.”

Others who spoke at the event included Castleton professors Burnham Holmes and David Mook. Mook spoke about how it took many years to finally realize what he wanted to do. Holmes spoke about how he had a hard time finding his speaking voice, but now teaches effective speaking.

This was the second showing of “The Moth” and Fox hopes there will be more in the future.

“We’ll see in the fall if people want to do it again.” she said.

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