We grabbed dinner. I was expecting small talk Bc at that time that’s all I ever shared. I didn’t want people finding me out. I was the queen of having a ton of friends but no intimacy. Even my closest friends didn’t know the real me. They had no idea my history, my secrets, my story. I was used to showing presentable Cortney, the perfectionist, the overachiever, the life of the party, the walls, the facade. They knew nothing. That all changed when this one guy, a stranger really, decided to be honest and transparent with me. He shared about his not-so-normal childhood. Instead of just saying, “I’m from KY and I have a brother”(my expectation) He told me about his parents divorce, how his mom was never around and that he was raised by his dad. I remember having a million thoughts as he told his story- I wondered If she had a substance abuse or addiction problem like mine, or maybe he wasn’t sure Bc he’s never caught her in the act or he couldn’t be sure Bc she refused to admit it. Besides, it’s easier to ignore, ya know? As he started to wrap up his story I knew it was almost time for me to start mine. I somehow knew my standard response of “I have 4 older brothers” and changing the subject wasn’t going to work this time.. or rather this was the first time in my life I felt safe enough and wanted to share. I remember thinking, I barely know this guy, so what if I tell him my story and secrets? He doesn’t know anyone that I know. I could easily never talk to him again and I’d be right where I’ve always been- protected Bc no one else would know. So I did it, I shared my story, or at least more than I had ever shared with anyone. We spent most of the night talking about how neither of us have a relationship with our mom. Might sound like a depressing convo to you, but it was the first time I could talk about it freely and not feel judged, pity or shame. It was absolutely liberating! It was the first step to embracing my past, to embracing ACEs.