Mandi Jo Stoll
by The Bathtub Project
Date of Interview: August 26, 2016
Name: Mandi Jo Stoll
Location: Washington, DC
If you were an underwater creature which one would you be?
A mermaid. One of the things my dad always says is that “you can’t rule out the possibility of the mystical.” Well, he might not say it quite like that, but basically, you can’t assume that things don’t exist just because you haven’t seen them, or experienced them and… I like the idea of being a mermaid.
What are your thoughts on vulnerability?
Vulnerability is something that I’ve thought about a lot. I think part of that is that it’s had such a strong impact on relationships in my life and experiences of feeling welcome or not feeling welcome, and finding out what relationships meant and the inherent vulnerability that is in that. I mean, now, I’m working in a vocation that heavily involves vulnerability and trust. And that’s really what drew me to it, the willingness to be vulnerable is important and that’s something I’ve valued in my own relationships and I think it will continue to be a huge factor in my life.
What are your thoughts on relationships? Sexual, platonic or otherwise.
I think relationships are at the center of how I behave and how I show what I think is important. I grew up in a Mennonite family and the Mennonites are all about simple living and service, but I think a large part of that, is focusing on living out what it means to be like Christ. And to me that means my relationship with God and my faith isn’t just something that I do by following certain rules or by going to church on Sunday. It’s something I do by showing the same love that I believe God has for everyone to all the people that I know. And so, deep relationships are something that I seek due to that, but it’s also something that we all need. And that we all crave. The relationships that I’ve built in my life are the most important things that I have.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about people. About music and art. I’m passionate about service, and I don’t think that means something like going to volunteer. To me it means being someone who is generous and trying to be a positive force in the world.
What made you want to be a part of The Bathtub Project?
For me, vulnerability has always been BIG, so definitely that aspect of it. I love water, and so, that just kinda tugged at me a bit. But I think it’s also the fact that The Bathtub Project calls people to step outside of what is normal and safe… And to trust one another. Yeah, it’s not very often that people get the chance to say “I don’t know you, but I’m getting in a bathtub with you”. Like, even this is different because we know each other. The idea that someone would do this is so amazing to me and honestly, the interviews are my favorite part because I feel like I’m able to see parts of people that you really have to ask about in order to hear about. Because they aren’t things that you’re going to hear in regular small talk.
What are you most afraid of for yourself?
I think something that I’m most afraid of… is selling myself short. I think part of that is wanting to put relationships first and wanting to trust the people in my relationships and to not give up on them. But I know there have also been times when I’ve wanted sooooo much to make a relationship work that I’ve put myself in danger of not taking care of myself enough. That’s something that I think about a lot. But I also really don’t want to lose my ‘softness’ because even though I know that being vulnerable makes my emotions be at risk, it’s also one of the most beautiful things to me. So it becomes a balancing thing.
What are you most afraid of for the world?
I feel like the easy answer is to say Trump… But I think beyond that, I think it’s a lack of listening. I mean seriously, Trump is a scary thing but I think that really, what he represents is people being afraid of things they don’t know, and not being taught how to listen to things they know nothing about. I’m afraid that we are moving towards a place where we “other” each other so much, that we forget to see our common needs and humanity.