Whether it’s meeting new people, spending time with extended family during the holidays or just having a conversation with my hairdresser, I usually mention my first marriage and subsequent divorce at one point or another.

Why?

Well, because I’m not ashamed of it, that’s why.

I wear my mistakes like badges. I write about them fervently because time is of the essence. I’m only here on this earth for a limited time and the experiences I’ve lived through have a right to be passed on.

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There’s almost always a lesson that I’m still learning so many years after my divorce that’s relevant or useful to many other people I come across in my travels.

It’s not that I can’t let go of the relationship itself—because I have. I’m actually joyful that the marriage ended after many difficult years. It’s what I took away from the experience that I can’t help but bring up time and time again.

Even today, I’m still absorbing the total effect that the experience of “failing” at marriage had on me. And on the surface I did fail—miserably. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying. I gave that relationship my heart and soul and—ultimately—my peace of mind.

I was married at 24 and divorced by 27. Add three years of living together prior to marriage and that’s 6 years of slugging away at something that was inevitably doomed from the start.

But I’m not going to hide in the shadows of divorce shame.

I’ve blogged about my experiences in my first marriage of domestic abuse and drug addiction. But at the end of the day, the lessons I learned about myself, my strengt  and my vulnerabilities are absolutely priceless.

I’m proud and excited to talk to other people—especially younger women—about what happened in my first marriage and how I dealt with life after the divorce.

Knowing that my prior naivety and suffering can be an “aha moment” for someone who may be in a relationship that’s not working or even in an abusive relationship is 100 percent worth it.

I often say that I don’t subscribe to regret. What I mean by that is that even though there are things that happened to me or mistakes I made that I’d rather forget, I can’t repress them. Those memories will come back around no matter what, so why not be proactive and turn those difficult experiences into a valuable life lesson that someone else can gain knowledge from?

I love my mistakes. I adore them as if they are my children. But they make me angry sometimes. They remind me of unfortunate choices I made and a heartache that once tore me apart. But I’m still going to carry them with me, caring for them and nurturing them until that misery becomes a smile either for myself or someone else.

Everything I am today I owe to my younger, brasher, uninformed, hopeful, kind and impulsive self. She made me who I am today, sitting here writing about it. She existed and her mistakes existed. I’m not going to erase everything she was just because divorce is—to many people—a failure.

I can say that the younger version of me tried her hand at love, gave it her all, loved unconditionally, and when all was said and done, she broke through as a substantially stronger mold than she was before.

It’s not so much that hindsight is 20/20 but it’s more like hindsight gives more meaning to past experiences that seemed to be senseless or confusing at the time.

As you go forward in life, you’ll discover that difficult past experiences required you to go through what you did in order to use those lessons as tools in the present.

Horrible mistakes and experiences are definitely regrettable, but that doesn’t mean you have to live a life regret on a daily basis. Own those mistakes. Make them work for you now.

It’s time.

(This post originally appeared on The Pondering Nook.)
Featured Photo Courtesy: Michelle Zunter