When Queenie Wu and Leslie Xin started having weekly calls to catch up and make art during the pandemic, they were not planning to innovate a way to turn the human experience of crying into a communal one.
Wu and Xin, two third-year Systems Design Engineering students, have created a map of spots on the University of Waterloo campus where students have cried.
“We wanted to use maps as the representation of shared space to convey all the shared emotions, and teary experiences we rarely talk about,” Wu said. “2020, and the people I’ve been so lucky to have in my life, taught me a lot about expressing vulnerability as a way to strengthen my relationships with others as well as myself. Recognizing and processing difficult feelings, even through just crying, is much healthier than suppressing them for the sake of appearing unbreakable.”
Speaking of the process as a whole, Wu and Xin add, “Our process was more similar to that of creating art—spontaneous and non-linear.”
The map of crying spots became a reality after the pair took to Reddit to reach out to the University of Waterloo student community and asked for their stories.
“We initially released an anonymous form on Reddit with no expectations of how many responses we would get…we ended up getting over 300 data points from these responses, making up the current map! In the past two weeks, we’ve gotten over double the number of stories and locations since the website went live – a total of 500 responses, and about 800 data points,” Xin said.
Wu speaks on the demographic served, “It isn’t just students’ stories either – we’ve also received many from alumni, professors, and staff. The way the site has rippled across the UW community has caught us by surprise.”
The pair has been moved by the sense of community and connection that came out of this project themselves. “I’ve teared up a handful of times, from not only reading the immense experiences shared in the stories (and some sprinkled with comedic relief), but also when hearing folks exclaim how much they felt connected with the stories,” Wu said.
The actual product is in the form of an interactive website where the spots students have cried in appear as glowing blue dots, and featured stories are included using orange pin icons.
Regarding mental health on the Waterloo campus, the pair state, “We know that the university has acknowledged the importance of mental health and are investing in available resources on and off-campus. However, many of these resources are reactive. We want the school, as well as everyone else, to recognize the differences in each student, staff, or faculty member’s experiences, and proactively build an environment that welcomes and supports a range of emotions.”
If you would like to submit your story of a place on campus where you have cried, you can head to waterworks.digital online, go to the map, and click on ‘where have you cried?’ to navigate to a Google doc.