It is still scary to stand up in front of a roomful of people and speak my story out loud.Â I am going to have to get used to this since my dream is to complete my memoir.
The trauma that was my little secret, the dark parts of my past, everything I kept hidden for so long — it’s all gradually becoming more public. I’m glad because I promised years ago that I would tell my story someday if I thought it would help others.
Yet it’s also frightening to leave behind the carefully constructed image of someone who is happy-go-lucky, and has it all together, who acted for so long as if I’d never been through anything at all in my past — when frankly, we all have been through SOMETHING.
By speaking our stories out loud, I believe we can give others permission to speak their truth, to bring into the light what was hidden, and hopefully to heal from it.
Sharing My Story to Help Others
Last night I told my story again in a roomful of young women at Russell Sage College. I’d spoken last fall as the keynote speaker at a Take Back the Night rally in Troy for victims of sexual assault.
That night, I met a young woman from Russell Sage College who befriended me, and weÂ kept inÂ touch. She organized last night’s event.Â That talk, last October, was terrifying and also empowering. I couldn’t look at my best friend in the audienceÂ or I would have burst into tears.
Standing right in front of me was a row of fraternity students from RPI, twenty-year-old men watching me, eyes wide open, jaws agape, as I described being raped and stalked. I will never forget the expressions on their faces.
I just powered through it and held back the tears. I couldn’t believe I was standing in front of a roomful of people telling them details about some of the worst things that had ever happened to me.
I decided to write my memoir in part because I’d promised myself years ago that I would tell my story if I thought it would help others. I’d finally reached the point in my life last year where I felt ready, healed enough, to start sharing my story.
I thought, and have found it to be true, that speaking it out loud would also take away some of the power it had over me. My story is about what happened to me in the past — it doesn’t define me.
Showing Others They Can Do Anything
I want other women, especially young women, to not suffer as much as I did, to learn to love themselves sooner, to seek help if they need it. So I tell them the awful details of what happened to me, the years of dealing with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, how long it took me to really find peace and happiness in my own life.
I tell them how I healed over time, hoping they will find shortcuts toÂ happiness in their own lives, and learn to love themselves sooner. The good news is I’m living my dreams now and believe anyone can too — no matter what we’ve come from, and what we’ve lived through, we always have a chance to live our dreams now.
Making Dreams Come True
As part of last night’s talk, I asked the women in the room to write down their biggest dreams for their lives, and let them know I’d share some of those dreams anonymously on the blog.
In the room last night, we had college women who want to:
- Become a mayor and then a senator
- Be aÂ photographer and writer for National Geographic
- Start a theater company in Salem, Massachusetts for battered women
- Write a book of poetry
- Find a cure for Down’s Syndrome
- Be a super-sexy attorney
- Cause world peace through music
- Be a psychologist and open her own business
And one young woman who simply said she wants to “travel a lot, eat lots of food, meet lots of people, and play a lot of soccer.” Amen to that!
Living Their Dreams Here
I asked the young women I met last night to keep in touch and hope some of them will live their dreams here with us.Â Putting my dreams out there in frontÂ ofÂ others helps motivate me more as well during the challenging timesÂ – I want to realize my dreams in part to inspire others to live theirs.
And I believe that when we lift others up as weÂ work toward our dreams, it helps our dreams alongÂ as well.Â Isn’t that what 8womendream is all about?
Whatever your dream is, would love to hear how it’s going this week.
How are you helping others else live their dreams?