Oh Boy Episode 42: Helena Bala

Haley Nahman | November 22, 2016

Jay Buim sits down with the creator behind Craigslist Confessional

In partnership with TheRealReal.

Helena Bala knows that everyone has a story. It’s why she started Craigslist Confessional — a safe space for everyone to tell theirs — in 2014. She was born in Albania and, as a child, attended international schools in Slovenia and then Bridgeport, Connecticut. She has the kind of open energy that just makes you want to tell her stuff. Fitting, all considering.

She moved to America just before 9/11 and experienced how her otherness become a burden. Years later, she got a law degree so she could pursue a career in human rights. Although she now jokingly calls herself a “recovering lawyer and lobbyist,” she’s still very much interested in helping people. She founded Craigslist Confessional (which now also runs as a column on Quartz) after making a connection with a homeless man simply by listening to his story and then telling him hers. It sparked an idea — maybe more people simply needed open ears. Two years later and she’s still listening.

On that note, pop in your headphones and give her your ears for today’s episode of Oh Boy.

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Helena Bala is the Founder of Craigslist Confessional, follow her on Twitter @clistconfession! She’s also a regular contributor to Man Repeller! Follow host Jay Buim on Instagram @beardwizard and check out his website, too. Logo by Kelly Shami; illustration by Amber Vittoria

This podcast is sponsored by The Real Real. The Real Real is launching its first pop-up shop from December 1st to 15th at 79 Greene Street in Soho, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. M-F and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sat-Sun.

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  • While I have yet to listen to the podcast (work …) I couldn’t help but think (while working, no less 🙂 about the impact of listening to other people’s stories …
    I take it you don’t get to listen to happy stories, at least not often … I can imagine the weight of these stories … It seems to me our world is producing way too many of them, unnecessarily.

    • Helena

      Hi Alcessa–you’re absolutely right: I don’t think I’ve heard a happy story in the two years I’ve been doing this. This is probably more due to the nature of the project (anonymous listening for stories that people don’t feel they can share with anyone else) and less about the nature of our world 🙂 I have to admit, though, that it does seem, sometimes, that a lot of people feel alone and very sad. Those are the days that I’m most glad to be doing this.

      • Theoretically, people could also tell you about their … secret sexual exploits … books being written noone should know about (yet) … hidden crushes and happy dreams about their teachers, bosses, lawyers … and so on. 🙂 Well, at least some of my secrets are happy ones (and meant to remain secret).

        I was of course unashamedly projecting, thinking these stories must be a burden, sometimes: I’ve had too many and feel burdened by them, at my age (!). I shudder at those that will surely come my way – because there’s a kind of frequency with which they occur, not for any esoteric reasons: that’s how life is. And I often wonder how easily some of them could have been prevented …

        Still, I guess am a fan of yours – I find the idea great and a worthy cause.

  • Catalina

    Could y’all provide the link about the guy with the 38 minute drive? Couldn’t find it 🙂