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 11 years ago at one point or another.
Well, I'm not ashamed of it, that's why. And it just happened to be one of the greatest lessons of my life.
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.
There's almost always a lesson that I'm learning, even 11 years after my divorce, that's relevant or useful to other people who I come across in my travels.
It's not that I can't let go of the relationship itself - because I have - and 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 am 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 six years of slugging away at a relationship that was plainly doomed from the start. But I'm not going to hide in the shadows of divorce shame.
I've blogged about the experiences of my first marriage, including domestic abuse and drug addiction. At the end of the day, the lessons I learned about myself, the depth of my strength, 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 an abusive relationship -- is 100% totally and completely 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've said that 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 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 most people -- a failure.
I can say that the younger version of myself tried her hand at love, gave it her all, loved unconditionally, and when all was said and done, she broke through as substantially a stronger mold than she was before.
In my second marriage today, I'm going through experiences that I'll be able to draw upon several years from now. 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. Sometimes the painful lessons we learn in the past end up being valuable tools for the future.
Horrible mistakes and experiences are definitely regrettable but that doesn't mean you have to live a life of regret on a daily basis. Own those mistakes. Make them work for you now.
More from Michelle: What It's Like Being Married To A Prescription Drug Addict
Visit Michelle at The Pondering Nook For More Inspiring Blogs on Parenting, Step-parenting, Relationships, Women's issues, Society, Culture & more...