"The most beautiful story is unfolding, and that is the story of you." - Prem Rawat
If you were to write a memoir about a brief period of your life, what would the focus be?
Love? Career? Family? Friends? Or an exploration of how all of these things combine to shape your outlook on the world?
I cherish the memoir as a genre, because it speaks to me in a way that even the most compelling fiction cannot. Memoir creates a romance between the writer and her audience - an intimate, whispering, secret-sharing bond that not even the most brilliant novel can surpass.
Like a complex photograph of a brief period in the author's life, a well-written memoir reveals the anxious shadows surrounding even the happiest occasions, as well as dapples of light and hope in even the darkest times.
A book introduces you to an author, but a well-written memoir is an invitation to develop a relationship with that author, to share in her aspirations, her heartaches, her fears, her neurosis, and ultimately, her triumphs. A well-written memoir carves out a place in your heart that will forever be reserved for that author, and that author alone.
What would you say to convey The Story of You to someone you've never met, in a way that would allow them to connect with you on a deep personal level?
My relationship with my own story has always been rocky. It's not easy to get into a space where I'm comfortable sharing the ugly truth about my darkest moments. I've become strangely adept at compartmentalizing certain situations from my past, and looking back at them as if I'm watching a movie about someone else's life.
But when I really stop to think about it, I know that all the mistakes, the questionable choices, the heartache, and the self-imposed hardships have taught me to be more patient and forgiving with others, and more importantly, with myself.
And beyond those rough patches are so many moments of beauty: love, intimacy, kindness, selflessness, friendship, adventure, empowerment, triumph.
Those pages of my story -- the ones that feel so cozy and heartwarmingly wonderful -- wouldn't mean nearly as much without the all the conflict, all the "bad" stuff.
If you were to pick up a book full of nothing but happiness, love and success, with the author leaving out any reference to fear, pain or adversity, would you walk away feeling connected to the author, to the story? Would you feel that you empathized with the heroine's struggles, or that you trusted her to be your friend and guide you through your own rough patches?
I certainly wouldn't. Because seriously. BO-RING.
In storytelling, as in life, we need the duality of good and bad, of weakness and strength, of optimism and despair, to fully understand the heroine's journey and to truly appreciate how far she has come.
Will you be brave enough to tell your whole story, or would you rather keep the best parts to yourself?
This morning, I was talking with my copywriter about the myth of the starving artist, and how hard I had to work to overcome the false notion that I could never make money in a creative career. I wanted my website copy to convey that I understand that struggle, but even I wasn't buying that a 6-figure earner who had spent 15 years in legal profession had any clue what it felt like to be a starving artist.
It just didn't make sense.
That is, until I decided to peel back the pretty layers of professional success and tell her the ugly truth about my own struggle as a broke-as-could-be creative. And now I'm sharing my secret with you.
My first writing job -- which I loved -- paid so little that I had to take a second job -- as a stripper -- just to be able to pay my bills.
I kept stripping to pay my way through culinary school, and finally traded in my platform stilettos for a boring black briefcase when I took my first law firm job. That was also the day I traded in my creative hopes and dreams for a "respectable" career and a stable paycheck.
Let's just say my parents were... less than pleased... with that time in my life. Even now, it's something they refuse to talk about or even acknowledge. Stripping was a secret I kept hidden from the attorneys and judges I worked with over the years, because I knew it would affect my professional reputation.
But now, as I'm encouraging my own clients every day to step into their power and realizing I still have that little piece of me hiding in the past, I have no excuse for keeping quiet.
There may be portions of your story that would anger your family, secrets that would shock your friends and colleagues, revelations that will cause some people to see you in a completely different light, and truths that would make complete strangers cast judgment on you.
The truth is, there may be relationships in your life that would never recover from the things you reveal.
That's okay. Tell your story anyways.
Your story is what makes you YOU.
I don't regret becoming a stripper. Not one bit.
Stripping gave me the freedom to work with two of greatest my passions -- writing and food -- without having to run up a huge amount of debt or beg my parents for financial help.
And that "ugly truth" that I kept hidden for so long is the same thing that empowered me to make my own choices, taught me the value of empathy and human connection, improved my confidence, and opened the door to some of the most memorable friendships and experiences of my life.
Don't hide your own truth behind all the the hypothetical outcomes and "what-if's" or waste precious time worrying what other people will think about it. Every experience in your past, no matter how seemingly insignificant, has had a special part in creating the person your are today. And every dark moment eventually gives way to the light.
When you allow yourself to be vulnerable as you share your story, you inspire others to be comfortable in their own truth.
This week, I challenge you to recognize the importance of owning your experiences -- good and bad -- and commit to sharing an important page from The Story of You with the world.