Second verse, same as the first.
And the third, fourth, fifth…yet also not the same.
“How many times are you going to rewrite your memoir?” a friend asks. “As many times as it takes,” I say.
You see, the book has gone through all the stages of healing with me — anger, pain, nonchalance, victory, healing, and on and on. This book has been my constant companion through the journey, and it has grown and evolved to be stronger and stronger, just as I have.
Several weeks ago, I stood before my speaking club* and opened my speech with a couple of lines from a song.
I sang those lines.
It was the first time I’ve sung in front of people (other than along with the radio with family and friends) since I was 13. It was the scariest part of my speech. It was also the part that I needed to do most because my speech was about my journey of 1,000 miles, which is also about my journey of healing. Along the way, I’ve gotten braver and stronger — caring less what others think of me as I do what I need for me, caring more about how each decision affects my life.
Leaving my club that day, I felt so alive. I felt revived. I felt…heard.
A few weeks after that, I found myself with quivery knees as I stood outside a classroom of eighth graders. I was getting ready to share my story with them, but even as I spoke to a friend, another part of me was back in 1988, which was a fine place to be since my story was going to begin there, but I was FEELING the 13-year-old me that I was. The smell of the hallways, the stolen glances from student to student, the outgoing and loud conversations, the quiet nose-in-a-book passersby, teachers getting in a quick word with each other — all of it sent me back.
I returned to school in my eighth grade year with a head full of blonde (very yellow) hair. I had shopped and paid for my own clothes. I was, in my opinion, looking great. That was the last year of school that I felt like I still had something of a voice. The last year that, while I’d been the subject of bullying and such, and life at home pretty much sucked, I was still a good student, still a girl with dreams, still singing and participating in speech contests.
That ended very soon, and the change caught me by the throat and took me to a new place altogether. On this day of standing in the eighth grade hallway to talk about that life of yesterday, I felt all my confidence sliding away. Isn’t it funny how memories can do that to you? I wanted to run, hide in a bathroom and cry like I often did in my middle school years.
But outside the classroom was this sign:
“You Are Entering a No Excuses Zone”
Gulp. Forty-year-old me and 13-year-old me were both caught by this. No excuses.
No excuses means feel the fear and do it anyway. No excuses means no running and hiding. No excuses means I have a voice and I am here to use it.
For years, I’ve been writing my stories, sharing and then hiding them, sharing and then hiding them. But in the last several years, through my process of healing, I’ve been braver and kept my stories out there. And last year when I joined Toastmasters, I made a very exact decision to step into a spotlight and literally use my voice again.
And with all of that comes the FINAL final version of my memoir, writing from a place of strength, not weakness, of healing, not deep in the pit of pain, and of courage, not runaway fear. It’s been a journey — one that I know continues — but the view going forward is more than I could have ever imagined. Finding my voice again gives me so much more of what I need than I realized in years past.
In so many ways, the different versions of my book is a diary of my healing process, and for that, I am grateful for every single draft.
*Toastmasters — Colorado Orators League #5618
Photo of me speaking at Toastmasters by Bob Kittridge, who often grabs my camera to make sure I am in our club pictures, too. Thanks, Bob!