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How To Write Your “When Life” Story

Let me tell you that everyone has a story. Repeat. Everyone. Has. A. Story. In today’s piece, I am going to show you the two easiest methods for either writing or developing your story.

I have had several people tell me that they want to submit a story but just aren’t sure how to write one. Some have said, “I don’t have a story to share.” Let me tell you that everyone has a story. Repeat. Everyone. Has. A. Story. In today’s piece, I am going to show you the two easiest methods for either writing or developing your story. There is a good bit of information you can look up on Google and such that can show you the components of a story or even how to put it in writing, but I am sharing what I have found to be the easiest by far.
A lot of stories that fall into the “life changing,” “will never forget,” “the most difficult time of my life,” categories follow what is called the “Hero’s Journey.” When you research hero’s journey online, you will find there are many ways to break it down, with some having as little as five components and some as many as seventeen. In a nutshell, the hero’s journey involves an ordinary person just minding their own business living their life when suddenly they are called to action. This “call to action” is often referred to as an adventure or a journey. The protagonist (that would be the ordinary person or you) really, really does not want to go on this supposed adventure or journey. However, with the support of a mentor, and this might be a friend, family member, expert in the area they are about to explore, they finally decide (reluctantly) to “accept” this challenge. Either alone, or with the help of his/her new friends or mentors, crosses over the threshold to start this journey. The protagonist is tested. He/she encounters enemies but also meets wonderful new people that help them get through their journey. It’s during this time that they are preparing for the challenge and ultimately facing the “giant” or the big change. They are successful in their quest or in other words overcomes their enemy. This is the climax of the story. It is after this that they gain what they are looking for, succeed in getting what they went after, or basically win their prize or reward. Now, they have been successful in their journey, and have met some new mentors/friends, or people who may have been in their shoes before. It may be that they went through several minor setbacks or even better discovered something wonderful about themselves they didn’t realize was there. Maybe they were stronger mentally, physically, or emotionally than they thought. Nonetheless, they conquered something, someone, or whatever the case may be despite their initial fears or hesitancy. Now it’s time to come back to their ordinary life. This may be hard sometimes because maybe the experience was traumatic or took up so much of their mind/emotions it is hard to just wake up and say, “well that’s over, guess I’ll just go on like nothing.” This is a huge turning point here. In the hero’s journey, this period would be considered the resurrection and return. To ultimately complete this journey, the central character must be able to survive returning to everyday life. The hope is that the story closes where the protagonist has gained great knowledge or strength, has improved on a personal level in some way, can share with others the wisdom they acquired along the way, and is overall a hero in their own right. I don’t think there is any set amount of time that these acts take to flow from one to another. It could be weeks, months, or years even. People can often get stuck in one of these scenes and never progress. That is why sharing your hero story is so important. How great is it that you have conquered and survived something huge only to share that to inspire others to keep on their journey?
Another great way to get your creative juices flowing is to document the “chapters” of your life. Sometimes we may think we don’t have a story to tell, but when we take our life, and break it into sections it becomes clear that you most certainly do have a tale to tell. For instance, you may break it down like this:
1. Childhood
2. School, including high school, graduation, or getting their GED
3. Transition to college or college life in general if applicable
4. Love life and dating
5. Family
6. Marriage
7. Having children/adopting/struggles becoming pregnant
You see how this works. Once it’s broken down, all kinds of memories are triggered. You may find that it is easier to focus on one area of your life at a time.
Remember that no matter what you share, you always have the option of submitting anonymously. You do not have to provide your name to share a story.
On the contrary, I understand that some stories are just too hard to talk about or share. Completely understandable. I hope and pray for peace in your life if that is the case.
Also, some may not necessarily have a story to share but connected and purchased a shirt in support of, in memory of, in honor of, because they liked the design, etc. I would love to hear about that too!
Be on the lookout for my personal hero’s journey!
Now get out there and celebrate (and document) your When Life moments 😊
With Love,

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Check us out @ http://www.thewhenlife.com

 

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A When Life Article Review Of, “What’s Your Story?” by Herminia Ibarra and Kent Lineback

My focus in this piece is on creating and understanding the importance of a coherent transition story.

All throughout building When Life I read anything I could get my hands on about building my business and brand. I. Read. A. Lot. One place I could always rely on insightful and relative information, was the “Harvard Business Review.” Their articles, even the ones that I found to be over a decade old, including the one I reviewed in this post, are still very much applicable to the here and now.
When I first stumbled across this article and its title, “What’s Your Story,” I had something completely different in mind than what the piece was about. In my opinion, the authors had two unique concepts of storytelling intertwined together to produce one associated report. They take the idea of telling a compelling transition story, and applying it to not only allowing the person to understand how important and motivating it is for one to be able to connect their old self with their new (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 47), but also how telling a coherent transition story can help with crafting a persuasive résumé (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 34). My focus in this piece is on creating and understanding the importance of a coherent transition story. How when fashioned correctly can help us believe in ourselves and the path we choose to follow (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 7).
I have discussed in several posts before how important storytelling is and how stories define us, or how we choose not to allow them to define us. This article resonated with me so much because I didn’t realize how important it was that when making a significant transition in your life (in the article they discussed primarily a career change), that the story behind that transition be clear and consistent so that it persuades and motivates not only ourselves but the lucky ones who get to hear or read it (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 47). A coherent story behind the change we are either being forced to endure or have made a leap of faith conscience decision can help us believe in ourselves and our purpose (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 7). Transition in any form can be very frightening and confusing. “Am I making the right decision?” “I know I want to make this change, but maybe it should wait until _____?” “Am I being selfish for wanting ______ and possibly putting my family, children, finances, etc. in jeopardy?” (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 7) These are all questions that someone may have when faced with significant change.
I think this article pulled me in with the fact that it was written with career change as the topic of choice when discussing transition. Although, I believe you can take the same train of thought and apply it to other situations, having experienced a considerable change in careers I focused on that when writing this piece. Everything the authors discussed made perfect sense and was something I could relate to especially now looking back on things. Before going any further let’s just define what exactly coherence is in relation to storytelling. In the simplest terms, coherence in a story means that all its parts work together. The story makes sense and is logical (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 25). It’s like everything fell into place the way it did for a reason.
Now, what reason is the next question. There are always facts to the story (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 1, 2, 8, and 29). My facts were, I lost my fulltime childcare. I could not afford childcare for two toddlers and specialized care for my oldest son with Autism. The fact was I was enjoying my new position in our outpatient clinic after about seven years in management and was not interested in moving to the inpatient setting again. I did not have the childcare to take on a Monday through Friday orientation somewhere else. Those are the relevant yet boring facts.
This is where the importance of storytelling comes in. For some lucky people, they have what the authors describe as a “turning point” in their life where suddenly everything makes sense (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 10, 15, and 17). They can recognize in the moment what that turning point is and use it to craft a motivating story that gives them the momentum to say, “Come on change, bring it!” They can describe in the middle of the change the moment when everything just came together and clicked (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 12 and 17). Most of us, including myself, cannot or could not recognize that turning point in the middle of the act (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 17). It was only after the fact, could I self-reflect, have my lightbulb moment, and begin to create the story that now drives me forward. This is the story that I end up sharing with others when discussing my career change. Not those boring facts no one cares about. The story where I’m like “AHHHHHHHHH”, everything falls into place, makes sense, and motivates myself and others. The story that has the coherency that the authors describe as, “one that suggests what we all want to believe of ourselves,” and “is the solid ground under our feet” (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 27).
The authors discuss that one of the most compelling reasons for change is an internal reason or a “basic character trait” (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 31). This is the reason that I felt was the most relevant to my story. Outside the facts of having to leave my job, there was also the internal struggle I was having where my career in nursing management had changed to the point that I couldn’t really tell you what my job description was. I left management hoping for positive personal change in our clinic. And while I thoroughly enjoyed the position, I always found myself gravitating to wanting to organize, improve, and manage the area. I realized how much I enjoyed the autonomy of the job, something that I had not had in management in several years. I didn’t realize these things until I had to leave because I was much too busy being a nervous wreck worrying about all the “what ifs.” Once I walked out those doors on my last day, I suddenly felt free and everything began to make sense. Little did I know it at the time, but I immediately started to construct my transition story. Just like the authors explain, “external reasons tend to create the impression that we simply accept our fate” (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 31). I never settle and have much higher standards for myself than other people have for me, so this was not going to be how my story turned out. I think that is why it felt so out of character for me by the time my resignation was over that I began to feel a peace about everything. I was making a subconscious decision to not allow external factors to determine my fate.
Once I was home, and had more time to think about how everything unfolded, I realized just how unhappy I had been. It dawned on me that all the things I enjoyed had been taken from me over time in my management position. The ability to be creative and think outside the box, my autonomy, and the level in which I could coach and mentor had been severely reduced. It felt as though suddenly I was walking on eggshells all the time. Though I desperately wanted more responsibilities, I had less than ever before which made me feel like I didn’t know what to do. I gradually felt lost in a career where I once been extremely successful. I felt unsupported and without purpose. I think I would have had some of those things back if I had been able to stay in clinic, but God had other plans for me.
Fast forward and I am in a position doing all the things I enjoyed before, and even better, things I haven’t been able to do in well over a decade. My story includes the external reasons for my shakeup such as loss of childcare and such, however the most important elements are the internal reasons that give me the reinvention story that is the most motivating (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 46). I am creative again and writing all the time like I used to love to do. I am in charge of myself and have the ability to set small and large goals to work toward. I have surrounded myself with such an amazing and supportive team who truly wants me to succeed, and I feel driven to help them in any way that I can in their own success. I am more like myself today than I have been in a very long time. Toward the end of the article, the authors state that, “anyone trying to make a change has to work out a story that connects the old and new selves (Ibarra, and Lineback, 2005, par. 47). To that I say, “Hi Melinda, it is so great to see you again!”

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Check me out at http://www.thewhenlife.com

 

 

Works Cited
Ibarra, Herminia. Lineback, Kent. “What’s Your Story.” Harvard Business Review Online. Harvard Business Review, January 2005. Accessed, June 2017.
A version of this article appeared in the January 2005 issue of Harvard Business Review.
https://hbr.org/2005/01/whats-your-story

The Why Behind The When Life Blog

Most blogs probably don’t require much of an introduction as to what all it’s about. It’s pretty obvious when you are reading a food or a Mommy blog, but what should you expect from a blog by a storytelling company? Well of course stories, but as you have (hopefully) read up to this point there is a little more going on.

Most blogs probably don’t require much of an introduction as to what all it’s about. It’s pretty obvious when you are reading a food or a Mommy blog, but what should you expect from a blog by a storytelling company? Well of course stories, but as you have (hopefully) read up to this point there is a little more going on.
There are several different exciting elements that comprise the “Stories” section, or the blog section of the When Life website. For me, there were four main topics that I found to be important to touch on. My hope is that you will find something between the relevant and high-quality content When Life posts that you will connect with. I first and foremost wanted to spotlight our customers stories. As they come in, you will find that a lot of them will be highlighted in the “Stories” area. You may find that I add to, or comment along with the story to emphasize the points that may resonate best with our customers. At times, I may post article reviews about the power of storytelling as it relates to different areas of your life.I also wanted to make sure that I shared stories about When Life and its development and growth; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Starting a business completely clueless can be humbling, inspiring, comical, and at times a complete disaster. I like transparency, so you’ll get lots of behind the scene stories. I truly believe your childhood and background influence the directions you take in life. I also feel strongly that often those same instances are turning points in which you decide you will not go down the same path that you came from.
My childhood shaped who I am today, and partly why I ended up going into business for myself. I not only saw my parents struggle financially; I also saw them be very creative and inventive in making money for their family. I was surrounded by entrepreneurs growing up, some more successful than others, but regardless being around people that have the traits that are required for jumping out into the world of business was very inspiring. It’s only now that I can see that. I wish that my grandparents were still here to teach me some pointers. On top of that, I have my own personal experiences, financial and otherwise, that influenced my decision to begin my own start up. I think it is important to share pieces of my childhood during the toughest financial years for my parents. With that being said, you will find pieces written reflecting these times. I hope you get a good laugh at them while reading like I did reminiscing and writing them out.
Lastly, I have full on embraced the life of an entrepreneur and am absolutely loving every single second of it. Yes, you work very hard and often longer hours than most people when you are starting out. Yes, people think I have fallen off the face of the Earth since I decided that When Life was my fourth baby, and that she was what experts might call a high maintenance child. But I love it. I think that there are so many untapped creative individuals who are needed in the world of business in all levels and I want to encourage those people that are even remotely considering it. That’s why you will find posts regarding the world of entrepreneurship and encouraging you to follow your dreams in all areas, but chiefly regarding your career. Whether it is incorporating storytelling into finding your life’s passion, creating a storytelling résumé, or just presenting articles that encourage you to have the confidence to put yourself out there; I want to help you share your stories and grow as an individual in many ways that you thought were impossible. With the right team and support system, all things are possible!

Encouraging and loving you all every day,

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Check us out @ http://www.thewhenlife.com

 

 

Excuse Me, I Think Your Bathing Suit Is On Fire

They say it’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to have experienced a time in their life when they have either personally struggled with money, or saw their parents fall on hard times. Times when they looked around as a kid and said to themselves, “this will not be me.” I think that for those individuals there was always a small spark deep within; they just needed something or someone to fan the fire.

They say it’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to have experienced a time in their life when they have either personally struggled with money, or saw their parents fall on hard times. Times when they looked around as a kid and said to themselves, “this will not be me.” I think that for those individuals there was always a small spark deep within; they just needed something or someone to fan the fire.
For some, they knew as a child as soon as the opportunity arose, they would be stepping out of their norm to do something big, or at the least, better than where they were. Maybe they grew up in a single parent household and saw their hard-working mom/dad/caregiver struggle despite punching the clock every day. Or you know what, maybe their situation was the complete opposite. Maybe they had that drive and couldn’t understand why the person who was supposed to be providing for them wasn’t or didn’t. Some people continue on with their family’s business, with some advancing it beyond where it once was or driving into the ground because that ambition to answer to only yourself just wasn’t in their blood.
It all sounds a little dramatic I know, but in my journey, I have yet to have met one entrepreneur who didn’t have a background story. Something that set the stage for where they are today. I absolutely love reading or listening to the reasons as to why a person went into business for themselves. I have met some whose family member or child set the compass for where they were going. A lot want to solve problems or help people. Most have a true passion for what they are doing and the hope they can convey and convert others to share in that enthusiasm.
I have such a new respect and admiration for those who stand by their dream day in and day out no matter how the tide turns. The high of riding the biggest wave, holding tight, and praying you don’t drown only to open your eyes and see you’ve landed on the sand with your bathing suit still on is worth the times where you are sucked under, naked, barely breathing, and feeling like you’re about to be eaten by a shark.
It isn’t scientific or a proven fact, just my experience thus far.
I would say my experience is a combination of having experienced seeing not only my parents struggle, but also seeing a lot of the most influential people in my life step out and try their hardest in the world of Entrepreneurship. Let me give you a little background of their business ventures…
I was extremely close to both sets of my grandparents. Both of my grandfathers served our country and were hard workers. While my maternal grandfather (Granddaddy) worked full time, he also worked for himself in the heating and air trade. He was so skilled in this area that he taught at a local trade school. He also had his own nursery in his backyard selling plants and shrubs. In addition to this, he spent hours collecting, shelling, and selling pecans from his own trees. After retirement, he would go on to teach his sons on how to manage a business of their own.
My paternal grandfather (Bigdaddy) was one of the hardest workers I knew. He worked well into his 80’s even while receiving cancer treatment. He originally was a salesman for a steel company. In order to meet the needs of his family, he decided to open his own steel business. His wife, my Grandma, was so creative and talented. She sewed, painted, cross-stitched, quilted, made pottery and jewelry, honestly, I could go on and on in all the ways she was gifted. She owned her own fabric store in the 1960’s. She also made holiday specific items for gift shops.
I can’t help but add my maternal Grandmother to this list. While she may not have fulfilled what most would consider the true definition of an entrepreneur, you can’t dismiss how amazing of a wife, mother, and grandmother she was/is. Suggesting that a stay at home wife and mother is a “job” is quite offensive to some people I understand. Others will agree that it is by far one of the hardest yet most fulfilling position they have ever held. But when I tell you she was/is by far the most amazing “career” wife/mother/grandmother ever to have walked the face of this Earth is an understatement. That was her aspiration. That was what she always wanted to do. Different people will define this role in various ways. She cooked meals each day with fresh produce from their garden. She sewed for her children and for her grandchildren. She kept a beautiful, clean home and loved being there taking care of her family. We always could rely on her to be there for us no matter what else might have been going on in her life. She was a natural caregiver, thankfully so, because my grandfather was a brittle diabetic and later developed Alzheimer’s disease. Her faith in God was unwavering and she instilled that faith in her entire family. She is a beautiful person in and out. I’m not sure what the definition of being a perfect stay at home wife and mother is or if there even is one, but she exceeds any standard that might be out there. By no means did her devotement to her family take from her personally. She was active in different clubs, she worked out almost daily, and even today she loves to read, write, and draw. She always seemingly managed it all with ease. She is such an admirable woman.
Now, down to the nuts and bolts of it all, my parents. My mother worked off and on while I was younger, like very young. She was a preschool teacher mainly, and later as we got older, would end up substitute teaching for extra money. Then she, like myself, had two babies back to back. From that point on, she and my dad decided it only made sense that she stay home to raise us to curb the cost of childcare. Not only that, it was just important to her that she stay home with us. That was something she really wanted. My father was very sick when I was growing up (we will talk more on that later) so holding a job was extremely difficult for him due to his chronic illness. That never once stopped him from trying though.
My mom was a “Ding Dong, Avon Calling” lady at one time for extra money. I personally thought the extremely tiny tubes of lipsticks were the most amazing part of that job. She would later sew maternity clothes for women in her church and she helped my Grandma finish sewing projects that were due to be turned in to the shops she served. She was an amazing stay at home wife and mom. To be honest, she and my dad were both so great I never really knew how poor we really were until I was older. I am not going to get into the entire dynamic of our home life, at this time, from a financial perspective. Just know moving forward that it was very terrible starting around the time of my early preteens.
My dad worked with my Bigdaddy at his steel company for many years. However, he was always trying to find something that aligned more with his interests and would allow him flexibility with his Crohn’s disease, but also provide extra income for his family. I know, I know, isn’t having your dad (his dad) owning a steel business profitable? One would think. But it was small with very few employees and by the time you calculated overhead expenses there was not much left.
He did take big chances and try to brave the waters of being an entrepreneur. He owned a convenience store for awhile, as well as a hot dog restaurant. The store burned down and the restaurant ultimately failed due to location. He got very resourceful in those hard times. He “flipped” cars and trucks on the side. Once when he really wanted to take us to the beach one summer, he painted a dump truck for the money to do so. He painted houses. There was a time where he sold plastic fishing worms which he dubbed as “Dixie Wigglers.” That’s cute Dad. And when that didn’t turn out to be as gainful as he had hoped, why not try the real thing. Yes, you guessed it. Real worms. Red ones to be exact. He grew? Cultivated? Raised? I’m not sure exactly what the process of raising red worms is but he did it. And apparently, you need a LOT of Styrofoam cups to be a worm farmer. And I only say that because when things didn’t pan out we ate ice-cream and drank from Styrofoam cups for what seemed like an eternity! He sold a hand cleaner for a period of time. Had his own label designed and everything. If you can’t say anything, you have to admire his tenacity. I truly believe if he didn’t become as sick as he did which resulted in him having to file for disability, he would be running a business of his own now. There’s no doubt about it; you must have that drive to keep going despite what happens, no matter how big or small your venture is.
Once he was no longer able to work, my mom didn’t think twice about stepping in and picking up the slack. The take away here is the fact that mom jumped right on in the work force feet first with only some college in early childhood education (preschool). She landed a job as a receptionist at a senior care facility and twenty years later is gearing up to retire as the Director of Human Resources there. Her work ethic is unbelievable; often working more than ten to twelve hours a day, goes in early, stays late, stays over for days during inclement weather, takes on the work for others, leads committees, etc. Like her mom, there is a lot to admire in her.
I not only saw and experienced first-hand financial struggles, I saw my family, particularly my parents, work very hard to provide for their family. In some ways, this had a negative effect on me in my early adulthood and with the birth of my first child. No three-year-old really needs a million pairs of designer denim and footwear. However, as expenses for Jack rose and then with the birth of two more children, I became so much smarter with not only my money but my priorities as well. I don’t think it’s uncommon to grow up struggling financially and later want to give your child any and everything, even if they don’t even care about or want it. It’s funny how life comes full circle as I find myself using so many of the cost saving “life hacks” I saw my parents use. I am so grateful that I had the chance to see both sides because I can fully understand now what is truly important in life.
Taking this all in, I realize now that I am finally where I need to be. It’s in my blood. Where I should have always been. You can’t write a chapter of your life while you are still in the act. Now that chapters have closed it’s been easier to look back and understand why things unfolded the way they did. I came to the realization that no one will ever hold me to a higher standard than I hold myself to. I will always find it difficult to be boxed in and unable to experiment and release ideas and concepts that I have. I could never work again in a place where good ideas lay dormant at the expense of outshining someone else. It feels so amazing to not be stifled. I live, eat, and breathe the work that I do, and I have loved every single minute of it. I go to sleep thinking of ways to improve and build When Life, and some of my best ideas wake me in the early morning hours.
Maybe I am very naïve at this point, but I think I could drink my fruity beachy cocktail in the belly of a shark or in a bathing suit in the sun and be just as happy either way.

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And You Have A Story, And You Have A Story, And You Have A Story!

The concept behind When Life isn’t anything new. In fact, it’s been around way before computers, pen and paper and carvings on cave walls. It’s something that I would dare say is an innate desire for most humans. Storytelling.

The concept behind When Life isn’t anything new. In fact, it’s been around way before computers, pen and paper and carvings on cave walls. It’s something that I would dare say is an innate desire for most humans. Storytelling.
When Life is about embracing all of life’s moments. It’s storytelling at its finest because it is your story. By sharing your When Life moments, you can relish in the highs and reflect on the lows, both from which you grow. You can connect and inspire others as well.
Everyone has a story to tell and a hope that someone wants to hear it and possibly relate to it in some personal and emotional way.
Maybe it is the story passed through generations in your family that somehow seems to change each time it is told. Or perhaps it is the tattoo that only you know the meaning behind, the song that makes you cry, or the book that you always seem to go back to again and again. No matter whether the story is moving, heroic, or hilarious; it makes up part of the tapestry of your life.
You may not think you have much to tell but step back and reflect. Challenges, successes, love, heartache, daily moments that stand out, proud or embarrassing moments, death, new life…. the list is endless. The truth is it is important to think back and remember those times. Each experience provides you with an opportunity to say, “it is through this that I am the person I am today” or that “this experience will not define who I am.”
What’s better is that people want to hear your story. They want to be able to say “Yes, I have been there, I understand” or “Wow, that person is so strong. I don’t know if I could do that or survive that.” They want to know if your shared experience was better or worse than theirs and how did you fare on something that they are about to face. They may be looking for motivation or the green light that something they are wanting to try isn’t as crazy as it sounds because you came out alright. When you share experiences that are the types where one could feel all alone, with the outreach we have nowadays, there is a high probability that your story could truly save another person’s life.
Or you know what, maybe they are just nosey. Unfortunately, we live in a society that wastes a lot of time comparing themselves to others but it’s true and we will touch on that in a later blog. Let me tell you this, and I wish that I could take credit for this quote or figure out where it originated, but, “When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.” This could not be truer or be more applicable to the times we live in. I can’t begin to tell you how therapeutic it is to tell the narrative of YOUR life. It is okay that your story is different or not perfect. It’s okay that it isn’t like so and so’s. That is what makes it so relatable. Like I’ve stated before, as a company, I feel like it is important to create a safe zone for you, and that is what I will always try my best to do. There are house rules for commenting and posting, so please take the time to read them.
Not sure how to get your story started? No worries! Come back next time and we’ll look at different ways to get your creative juices flowing and your mind right for starting that first chapter.
Lots of love!

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