Stop and think about who you are.

Are you comfortable with yourself?

Do you like who you are?

Have you told the world the truth about yourself? Have you told you about your true self?

It’s not easy to tell the truth about yourself, especially when you know the truth goes against society and what it deems acceptable. While it’s difficult to reveal who you truly are, the act of letting go of your secrets can be truly freeing.

Melissa Febos, now an author and college professor at Monmouth University, was once a high school dropout, Manhattan dominatrix, and heroin addict. Melissa’s past was something she kept hidden until she wrote and released her first book, a memoir titled Whip Smart.

Whip Smart, as successful as it was, was an accident. Melissa was a private person, and no matter how crazy her life experiences were, she never shared them or wrote them down.

“But the first time I ever wrote about my own experiences, I was shocked by the power of those words, how writing them down made a kind of sense that I’d never found in the quiet of my own mind,” said Melissa.

Putting a pen to paper can free the mind and spirit after being trapped for so long. Although it felt great to write, who was to say Melissa’s work was suitable for the public?

“When I put that story out into the world, I was shocked by the response, at how grateful readers were to see their unspoken thoughts and feelings articulated in my story. I’ve never looked back” said Melissa.

Since opening up, Melissa’s work has appeared in venues like Glamour, Poets & Writers and the New York Times. She has been featured on Anderson Cooper Live, NPR’s Fresh Air and elsewhere.

Currently, Melissa is working on her next book titled Abandon Me, which is a collection of personal essays. Abandon Me will be released in early 2017.

Writers and authors like Melissa are makers in their own right. Melissa believes writing is not simply jotting down the facts of what happened in your life or in others. It is an art. An art that not many are gifted with.

“It requires artistry, tremendous lengths of time, and a profound willingness to relinquish your fantasies about yourself and other people. An incredible humility is necessary to look that long at one’s own dark parts” said Melissa.

Writing is the making of a story. It is making sense of things that are impossible to make sense of. And no matter how uncomfortable it is, being truthful is what makes writers like Melissa true makers.

That is the message Melissa hopes to deliver during her talk on April 9 at TEDxNavesink Makers. Be truthful. Face your own darkness and invite your exiled past into the light to free yourself.

“It’s been my experience that real joy is found in facing those vulnerabilities. That kind of integration makes us capable of more forgiveness, laughter, and intimacy with the people we love” said Melissa.

Although the life Melissa lived has not been a conventional one, her experiences have led her to the place she wants to be.

Melissa’s life story is an unlikely one, as she describes it. She is covered in tattoos, yet never drinks. Has done and seen some pretty outlandish things, but has never eaten meat. She is a high school dropout but is currently a professor at Monmouth University.

“I think the best example I can set for my students, and as a public figure is in these contradictions. I am a living example that you can be any number of unlikely things, and still be whole, and still be happy” said Melissa.

By releasing her demons and putting her story on paper, Melissa has found true happiness.

Don’t miss Melissa’s talk, “How Telling My Darkest Secrets Set Me Free,” at TEDxNavesink on April 9 at Monmouth University. Time is running out to get your ticket, so act now!

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