HUFFPOST PERSONAL

Here Are 11 Incredible And Totally True Personal Stories From 2019

From a best friend who turned out to be a scam artist to the birth of "She-Shed Cheryl," these are some of our favorite HuffPost Personal stories from the past year.

Since its debut in 2018, HuffPost Personal has offered real people a platform to tell real stories really well. Almost two years later, the personal essays and interviews we’ve featured have made us laugh, made us cry, tackled sensitive issues, told difficult truths and ― most of all ― provided opportunities to learn more about others’ lives and, consequently the world around us.

As we wind down another year of great storytelling, we’re looking back on some of the most compelling pieces we collected in 2019. These 11 essays are just a sampling of the diverse portfolio of work we’ve proudly shared over the last 12 months, so, if you’re hungry for more, head here.

Here’s to many more personal stories ― and the insight and understanding they can bring ― in 2020!

Writer Melissa Blake was featured in a conservative YouTuber’s video after writing an op-ed about Trump. She was sad, but not surprised, when the comments that followed had nothing to do with her writing but, instead, focused solely on her appearance. Blake, who was born with Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, responded by sharing three selfies, which consequently went viral and she shared how the experience affected her.

A selfie of Stevie Trujillo and her boyfriend, John, taken in 2009 in the van they called home.
A selfie of Stevie Trujillo and her boyfriend, John, taken in 2009 in the van they called home.

Stevie Trujillo was thriving in her conferencing sales position when she got laid off in 2009. Her boyfriend (now husband) John, suggested they move into his van so they could get back on their feet and the couple ended up spending five years calling the vehicle home. In her essay, Trujillo recounted her life during that time, including a perspective-changing incident in a Starbucks bathroom.

Wearing a white gown to a wedding when you’re not the bride is considered to be the biggest matrimonial faux-pas you can make. So, when, Amy Pennza tweeted about her mother-in-law doing just that, it instantly went viral. Pennza offered her hilarious and heartfelt account of what happened ― and why ― with HuffPost Personal.

When Johnathan Walton befriended his neighbor in 2013, he had no idea she was a major-league con artist who had set her sights on his money and was simultaneously scamming dozens of other people. In his HuffPost Personal piece, Walton detailed exactly how his friend ― who he says [at one point] was like a sister to him ― stole nearly $100,000 from him and how he put an end to her scamming once and for all.

Photo of author Robyn Woodman.
Photo of author Robyn Woodman.

After Robyn Woodward’s husband died in a scuba diving accident, she discovered he had been cheating on her from the start of their relationship. In her essay she revealed how she simultaneously grappled with his death and his infidelity and how the experience changed her.

Alice Little knows there is an “intense curiosity” ― as well as a lot of assumptions ― about her career as a sex worker. In her HuffPost Personal piece she offered readers the chance to learn more about her unorthodox job and why “nothing ever felt as fulfilling as working in a legal brothel” does.

In her essay, Katie Tastrom beautifully explained how her open relationship with her husband works, what it was like to become best friends with his girlfriend and how their nontraditional ― and very happy ― family functions.

Blake Turck wrote about the difficulty of forming new friendships as an adult ― and what happens when a friendship suddenly vanishes. While “ghosting” is often associated with romantic relationships, Turck’s piece about the unique experience of losing a platonic friend and is heartbreaking and, unfortunately, one that many people can relate to.

Dina Zirlott and her daughter, Zoe (2007).
Dina Zirlott and her daughter, Zoe (2007).

Dina Zirlott was just 17 when a classmate raped her and, because of the restrictive laws in her home state of Alabama, she was unable to secure an abortion. She therefore was forced to carry the pregnancy to term and her daughter, Zoe, was born with severe birth defects and died just months later. In her HuffPost Personal essay, Zirlott recounted her traumatic story in brave and intricate detail and explained why it’s crucial that women ― and not politicians ― have agency over their bodies.

From left to right, Marie Fredriksson, Dean Cushman and Per Gessle. Cushman helped launch Roxette's career in the United Stat
From left to right, Marie Fredriksson, Dean Cushman and Per Gessle. Cushman helped launch Roxette's career in the United States when he brought back a copy of its CD from Sweden.

When Roxette’s Marie Fredriksson died at age 61 in December, HuffPost Personal tracked down Dean Cushman, the man responsible for helping launch the Swedish pop duo’s career in the United States in 1988. Cushman detailed the unbelievable story, described how the experience changed his life and shared his thoughts on the passing of Fredriksson.

Nicole J. Butler never thought that a run-of-the-mill audition― one of the dozens she goes on every year ― would end up having such an incredible impact on her life. In her essay, she recounted how the became “she-shed Cheryl” in a viral State Farm ad, what shooting the commercial was like and how it ultimately changed her life.

Have a compelling first-person story you want to share? Send your story description to pitch@huffpost.com.