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Story Archives

Filtering by Tag: 2015-08-07


B.J. Miller

By B.J. Miller


We all need a reason to wake up. For me, it was 11,000 volts of electricity. One night, sophomore year of college, a few friends and I were out on the town; one thing led to another, and we decided to climb a parked commuter train. Fun, no? I scurried up the ladder on the back, and when I stood up, whamo!  The current arced to my metal wristwatch, entered my arm, and blew down and out my feet. I lost half of an arm and both legs below the knee. I spent a few months recovering in the St Barnabas burn unit in Livingston, NJ. One day, several weeks in to the affair, it began to snow outside. I was told it was coming down hard and pretty. Around that time, a friend of mine smuggled a snowball into the burn unit for me. I cannot tell you the rapture I felt. The sensation of coldness on my skin, the miracle of it as I watched it melt to water. In that moment, I was amazed enough to be any part of this planet in this universe that whether I lived or died became irrelevant.

Are you awake right now?


BJ Miller, M.D., is a palliative care specialist and educator at UCSF, and executive director of San Francisco’s Zen Hospice Project.


Julie Hermelin

By Julie Hermelin


“You know that feeling, the one when the voice in your head tells you someone loves you from afar? I had that today,” said Joy, taking another sip of her Jack and Coke. It was another humid New York night and we’d been planted on the sticky bar stools at King Tut’s Wah Wah House, enjoying their industrial reticulating fan.

I had no idea what she was talking about.  It was 1988, and in the waning days of my teenage years, that was nowhere near the voice in my head. My voice was a constant, Howard Stern-esque, stream of criticism and ridicule that sounded unmistakably like my older brother.

Joy heard a different voice, an astoundingly different voice. What would it be like to try on that voice? To look out at the world thinking you are loved and seeing love that’s there? Howard laughed at the idiocy.

I picked at the bandage of my new tattoo. When we decided to get the tattoos that morning, I sketched something quickly on a napkin while we ate our eggs. “What’s that?” Joy asked. “Just something I’ve been doodling.” I didn’t mention that to my eyes the six points made up an abstract Jewish star bursting open. When the tattoo artist offered to put special “glow in the dark” ink in the center, I smiled.


What would it be like to change your story?


Julie Hermelin is a storyteller, idea generator, filmmaker, and co-founder of Momstamp. She lives in LA with her three monkey children.