I’m letting go tonight.
Sharing your story is something I encourage people to do on a daily basis—but I have a difficult time grasping what that looks like for myself.
My past is something I will never be entirely comfortable with. Only a few people truly know the struggles I have faced, and I’ve been OK with that. While our stories are something we should share, they are also sacred.
Still, this idea of being open and honest is something I strive to do, and it is something I want others to do as well. It just has taken me a little bit longer to figure out the balance of letting people into my story while also protecting it.
Thunder rumbling, castles crumbling, I am trying to hold on.
When I began my internship in January, I knew I needed to step outside of my comfort zone and open up to people, but I still wasn’t ready to share all of my story—the part I don’t think I will ever be comfortable sharing with everyone. So I saved it, kept it for myself, and continued to carry its weight around with me.
And now it’s clear to me, that everything you see ain’t always what it seems.
One night, I finally found my voice. I was sitting with Caitlin, talking about the opportunity we were given at TWLOHA and the bravery of the people who write to us. And it made me finally realize I needed to share with her.
I was so scared. It takes so much courage to be able to talk about the struggles and demons we have faced in the past. But, at the same time, it is so freeing. I know people have misperceived me, have just assumed I live a life full of joy and happiness. And I have. But I have also struggled, I have also felt worthless, and I have also felt pain.
After I was done talking, Caitlin told me the words we tell people everyday, but this time they carried new meaning: “Your past does not define you, but it has played a part in the person you are today.”
I picked up every piece and landed on my feet. I’m wide awake.
A few weeks later at an event, we were handed a random questionnaire to help some psychology students finish their research. I opened the packet and was completely caught off guard. The questions felt so personal and invasive, I immediately wanted to give it back. But Caitlin surprised me. She looked at me and asked, “Are you OK?”
Was I? No, not at that moment, but I knew I would be. Had she not known what I have faced, I don’t think I would have made it through that day. Bringing back memories and reliving things you would rather forget is not something anyone wants to do. But having someone there, knowing she knew me, made it so much easier. She gave me the strength, the courage, and the grace I needed in that moment.
I am born again, out of the lion’s den. I don’t have to pretend.
The idea of sharing your story, owning what you have struggled with, and finding a person to share it with is something I take to heart, now more than ever before. But cherishing your story and saving it for people who truly matter to you is something to keep in mind as you seek healthy ways to open up to people. It reminds you just how important it really is.
My struggles do not define me, but they have undoubtedly played a part in my story—however I choose to share it.
Who I am:
I am a born-and-bred Floridian who recently migrated over to the Space Coast to join the TWLOHA team as the new editor, so you’ll be seeing (or reading) a lot more of me. I graduated from Southeastern University in 2009 with a degree in Journalism and Public Relations and 18 credits of English classes that I still think about daily.
Oh, and in October, I’ll be changing my last name to “Youngblood.”
Stuff I love:
My dad made a promise to me when I was younger that he would keep buying books for me as long as I kept reading them; I pride myself on having full shelves. I can’t pick a favorite, so don’t make me.
Most people know me for my Disney fanaticism. I often use my annual pass simply for a bite to eat after work and the thrill of feeling like a child all over again during the fireworks show. It is my own personal Neverland.
I just won’t apologize for the amount of time I spend watching good television. I can’t think of an episode of Mad Men that I don’t find amazing, an episode of Modern Family that doesn’t leave me almost crying from laughter, or an episode of Community that doesn’t make me wish Greendale Community College was a real place. But all of those are off the air for the summer, so I’m making my way through The West Wing like it’s 1999. Bartlet for America.
Above all, I love a God of unfathomable grace. I was raised in a pastor’s home, and faith was always the background of my upbringing. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized the importance of claiming, learning, and renewing that faith on my own. It is a messy and ongoing process, but it is worth it.
(Other things I enjoy but don’t have space to wax poetic about: cheese, sunflowers, perfume counters, the window seat, a good pair of boots, and Bryant Park.)
Why I’m here:
With all that TWLOHA has become, I never want to forget this all started with a handful of heartfelt words on a screen. I think it’s a powerful reminder that our words can bring hope and life. Small things can produce big change—a heart healed, a relationship mended, a life saved. This truth has not only inspired me as a writer and editor, but it has freed me as a person. I’m here as a product of timely encouragement and as a believer in the words yet unspoken. I’m looking forward to the challenge and privilege of communicating hope.