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Telling My Story
We are fragile; we are human; we are shaped by the light we let through us. –Thompson Square, “Glass.”
I hadn’t planned on telling him that night.
Over the course of my three days in Atlanta, I’d spend at least two nights with my 26-year-old cousin, practically a big brother to me, so I initially figured I’d work up to the story. Maybe the second night, maybe before I headed to the airport the last day. I just had to tell him before the end of the trip so he had some background on the 200-page manuscript I’d leave him with.
We’d talked about this manuscript a couple months earlier. I’d asked him if he’d be one of my “first round of readers,” eight close friends and family members I’d identified to give me feedback on this first draft. But I hadn’t told my cousin yet why I’d selected him. About his connection to the story; about how portions of it described a fall-out with someone whom, while they no longer kept in touch, he had been pretty fond of. I didn’t want him to be surprised when he read it, so I needed to explain a few things in person first, and a random work trip to his new city popped up at the perfect time. But the first night?
As I prepared myself for dinner, it suddenly seemed right. Why wait? I should seize the opportunity while I had it.
We selected a make-your-own stir-fry restaurant, and by the time I got in line to fill the plastic bowl with veggies, I no longer felt hungry. Even the sight of broccoli and black beans, typically my favorites, made me feel sick to my stomach.
By the time we sat down at the table, I was shaking. Literally, like that kind where you’re freezing and no amount of blankets, mittens, or wool sweaters will warm you up. My teeth even chattered, though not loud enough for my cousin to notice. He dove into his meal while I picked at mine, trying to figure out how to start, reviewing the few important points I wanted to make.
“So….” I took a deep, shaky breath, “about my book.”
“Yeah?” he said between bites.
“I need to explain a few things before you read it.”
“Okay.” he smiled a little.
“It’s about my college experience at UNC and how I was inspired to go there. That inspiration came from an experience in high school with a person a couple years older than me who I idolized. That person is someone you knew….”
“Oh?” He raised his eyebrows.
“Yeah… Um, Maya.” I could barely get the words out.
He nodded with a smile. “I see…. I wondered what happened between you two. I know you’d said you weren’t friends anymore.”
Right, because she made me feel like I was nuts for trying to help her and I thought maybe you’d agree with her.
I walked him through the story: how Maya had helped me through my tough family times, why I’d felt compelled to reach out when she needed help (my cousin remembered those days well), how the long, detailed letter I’d written to inspire her had instead pushed her away, and how our negative fall-out had put me on a desperate search for something positive to take away – the motivation to go to my dream college. I finished with a sigh.
“Wow,” he said, shaking his head, “it must have felt cathartic for you to write this book.”
“Definitely.” My heart rate decreased slightly.
“It reminds me of the time….” And that was when he launched into a story of a similar experience he’d had with a friend of his, and how hard it was to let go and move on.
My jaw dropped to the floor.
He didn’t think I was crazy. On the contrary, he seemed to understand the actions I’d taken. All those reasons I’d been scared of telling him what had really happened, and none of them had come to fruition.
My trip home proved less than ideal: a power outage in the Atlanta airport (the world’s busiest, by the way), a cancellation in Chicago. Yet through it all, I remained as calm and content as I’d ever been.
I’d held this story in for over eight years. Some friends and family knew bits and pieces, and a few friends I’d met since high school knew about the experience at a high level, but no one knew the details. With my grand ambitions for inspiring people with my book, I’d known that sooner or later I’d have to explain everything to everyone, and that thought had made me uneasy.
Until that trip to Atlanta. Until I realized that holding in a story about what’s made who I am, had meant holding in a part of who I am.
I’m told often that my book is in a “tough selling category” with other memoirs, but for me, it’s the only category. It’s the only place I can tell an honest, human story. For better or worse, the book has as many ups and downs as any fiction I’ve ever read, yet those events are real, and I think that’s why people relate to them. So many readers have told me “Something similar happened to me,” or “You’re so brave to be writing about this stuff.” I wasn’t always that brave. I didn’t always know whether my wish to inspire people would trump my anxiety about sharing my whole story. But a trip to Atlanta taught me the importance of that sharing.
And Then it Rained: Lessons for Life, as the title states, is a book full of lessons, the first one lying simply in the fact that I published it.
Don’t forget to stop by the Evolved Publishing pre-holiday blog hop. We’ve got 20 autographed books up for grabs! From thrilling young adult adventures to suspense nail-biters, thought-provoking literary novels, bright and cheery books for children, an uplifting memoir, and hot-and-steamy romance, we’ve got something for everyone on your holiday-shopping list.
About And Then It Rained: Lessons for Life:
About Megan Morrison:
Some may call me a writer, an author perhaps. Yet my 80,000-word memoir exists first and foremost because I am a dreamer. And I’m dreaming bigger than ever these days.
My passion is helping young people achieve their dreams, in particular finding the perfect college to nurture those dreams. I’m even going back to graduate school to pursue that passion in a full-time career, and that’s one of the purposes of publishing And Then it Rained: Lessons for Life.
Yet through the journey of publishing this book, I have discovered (or re-discovered, perhaps) a passion for writing. I have been incredibly fortunate as to have found a home with Evolved Publishing and am hard at work on planning a sequel, Sunny Skies, which I expect to publish sometime late 2014.
When I’m not writing, you’ll find me enjoying time with my friends, family, and 2-year old Golden Retriever, Mia. I love reading (of course) and running, and any time spent on the ocean. I took advantage of my proximity to the coast while getting my undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Business Administration at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Though I’ve now moved back to the landlocked Midwest, I continue to travel there as much as I can and hope to one day own a house on the beach. Living by the sea and writing all day — sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
Yep, as I said, I’m good at dreaming.