I wrote a story I thought I’d never want to tell. It was littered with uncomfortable memories of an awkward time I’d relegated to the past. It tells a piece of my history I never fully disclosed, even to friends, assuming this was the best way to protect the image of the person I’d become.

Before confronting the full story, I had studiously distilled my freshman year into a few amusing anecdotes, some generalizations, and a wave of the hand. “You know…” I’d say, “college life.” I could depend on listeners to fill in the details from their own experience. Nobody asked me to elaborate.

When I finally sat down to write that chapter, I was finally ready to reveal as much of the unvarnished truth as I could muster. It was then I realized my memory had missing pieces. I’d suppressed the story to such an extent, much of it had been pushed from my mind. Fortunately, I was able to consult old letters and diary pages that contained some of the details I’d lost.

I wrote the story in the third person, using my own name. I told myself it was an exercise in writing from a different perspective, but perhaps it also allowed me to create distance so I could process without re-living my experiences.

When I completed the first draft, I workshopped it with my online writing group. Instead of judging me, reviewers were sympathetic, saying they could relate to my experiences. I was surprised how many people said, “I’ve been there,” or “I know exactly how you feel.” When I posted the story on my web site, nobody reacted with shock or disgust. People opened up and told their stories. We could laugh together at lessons learned the hard way.

It’s not easy to admit failure; to acknowledge hanging in much too long with a bad decision. But perhaps the worst decision was to deny my past. Why pretend my route to adulthood was devoid of bumps, construction zones, and faulty navigation? Sharing a difficult story helped me connect with others in a deeper, more personal way.

The bottom line – if you’ve got a story to tell, don’t be afraid to tell it. If you need help telling your story, that’s when you call me.