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Finding Courage

One of the questions that came up after my recent author talk was, “Where did you find the courage to share your story?”

It was the second time in three days that someone had commented on the courage of writing a memoir. It’s not something I spent a lot of time thinking about during the writing, except towards the end when publishing became more real. Even then, most of my bravery was reserved for telling the other people who appeared in my story about their role.

Upon reflection, though, I realize it has required considerable courage. Where, then, did it come from?

A lot of it, again, goes back to my mom. In the book, I write about her death the day after turning forty-eight, and how it made me confront my own mortality, especially when I turned twenty-four not long after. What I didn’t get into as much is how I felt for years that I had a death sentence myself, convinced I would not live past forty-eight.

That idea still haunted me ten years later. It’s part of why, in January 2010, I saw a career counselor. At thirty-three, I largely believed I only had another fifteen years. I wanted to reevaluate how I lived my life, and it quickly became apparent that I wanted to use my experience to help others. Nor did I want to waste any time about it. I already carried some deep regrets, and I didn’t want to add more.

In addition, the more I went back and read my old journals, relived the pain of those years, the more I wanted to go back in time to comfort the younger me. Since I’ve never encountered a rift in the space-time continuum, or met anyone with a time machine, I can’t do that. So I decided to do the next best thing: offer something that might comfort others by writing the book I wish I’d been able to read.

And when it came down to it, the desire to help others, to possibly lift of the anguish another girl person might feel, outweighed the fear of sharing something so deeply personal.

Plus, at some point the book took on a life of its own, and I didn’t feel like I could not share it. And I’m happy to say that from the responses I’ve gotten so far, that risk has been well worth it and richly rewarded. Even better, I've found that as with many things we carry that we feel are secret and shameful, bringing it into the light and air helps overcome the shame and fear, and in that sense, it's been very freeing to have the book out in the world. I couldn’t ask for more.

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