One of the biggest acts of vulnerability I have faced is talking about my story–where I come from, what has happened to me, how I reacted, and why am I the person I am today. In this “owning” of my story there was so much shame, resentment, and, most of all, fear. I was so scared of what others may think that I found myself shrinking and becoming someone that I didn’t even recognize.

Until I dug really deep, read, wrote, and listened to others stories is when I found my voice. I never thought that my story mattered, that my experiences were traumatic enough to help others heal, but turns out they were. It turns out that what has happened to me in this lifetime, thus far, has been more than most people 20 plus year my senior.

My goal in telling my story has never been to “one up” or get the “you poor things.” It is to inspire others to become the best versions of themselves. To show the world that we are not our pasts. We are not what happened to us, but what we choose to become. We have, for the most part, the control to choose which path we want to take and I chose the light. I chose one a little less traveled, but one where I’ve met some of the greatest teachers. Whether in books authored by Liz Gilbert, Brene Brown, Cheryl Strayed, Michael Singer, Louise Hay, Jen Sincero, or just the various people that have walked in and out of my life, they all have taught me more about myself and my emotional, mental, and spiritual capacities.

In doing this, I have faced some of my darkest truths. I’ve had to accept that I can’t be all light and love all the god damn time and that’s okay. That I can ask for help even though it kills me to be a burden to people. That I don’t need to have anything and everything figured out. That I don’t have to do what is “expected” of me. I don’t have to let people talk down to me or make me feel small. That my story matters. That I matter.

People have come into my life with grace and have stayed for the ride. They accept me, cherish my story, and shake me back to the present moments, when needed. People have walked out of my life; most likely, for the better. It hurts like hell, but in reality my light and love didn’t serve them the way I intended and that’s okay.

When I’ve observed this balance of light and dark, the light always outweighs the heavy darkness. But you must nod to the dark and thank it for teaching you the deepest aspects about yourself. You must accept that it is a part of you.

At my university, I was a part of a spirituality scholar program where I was taught about diverse spiritual and religious practices. During this program, our ultimate goal was to develop a project themed around peace-making. Through trials and tribulations, I settled on Finding Inner-Peace through Personal Development. I chose this subject based on my experience with my self-care and awareness practices which guided me in the darkest, most challenging moments in my life. After marking up and highlighting my favorite passages in all of my favorite books, I wrote a poem about Where I Am From:

I am from where the earth is red and the waters are dark

I am from the tree lines, the lakesides, and mine pits of the Mesaba Iron Range

I am from the gorgeous, magical summers of Lake Eshquaguma

From the golf cart rides and Fourth of Julys
From the army green cabin and country club to the Ya-Ya sisterhood & Marko

From innocence and laughter
From bike rides and golf lessons
From swimming and sandy beaches

From tubing in day and bonfires at night

I am from the sounds of mining trucks and mine blasts that would shake our sound homes.

I am from welders and pipefitters
From hairdressers and therapists

I am from the sounds of the morning coffee grinder and the smells of Camel Turkish Gold’s in the breeze.

From the melodies of Neil Young and the cries of Janis Joplin
From the “hills are alive” to the “spoon full of sugars” and “hakuna matatas”

I am from the shared womb of a strong, beautiful woman
From the dress-up games, art supplies, and kickball tourneys with neighborhood friends.

I am from the tragedy that struck and shook a family

From the loss of 3 fiery, beautiful souls and the legacy that it carries
I am from resilience.

I am from the smells of sage burning and native drums humming
From crystals and energy work

From totem cards and journey quests
I am from individualism and openness.
I am from the hallowed halls of Virginia High

From a place where I could escape to

From the place where I hooked arms with my second half and whispered,” let’s not talk about it.”

From the power of smiles and laughter

—where education was a freedom and measure of success

—where worries would wash away until the sound of a bell.

From the uncomfortable jokes about Meth through ignorant mouths
From “Jayne they know too much.”
I am from the home of a loving and strong mother, that knew what she needed to do, and a hardworking, addict father.

–where divorce was a choice made by the courts, not out of fallen love

–where trust was lost and finances were in turmoil
–where tears and honest conversations were normal

–where I made a choice to grow up fast and take care of everyone

–where I learned love is a powerful force and “it is what it is”
That “everything happens for a reason.”
That I could attain inner-peace from prayers and cries to the heavens
I am from strength and resilience.

From love
From pain

From tragedy and sorrow

I am from the loss of self
From the untrue images in mirrors
From the comparisons
From “Everyone has a story, Marko, it’s just what you do with it.”

I am from the need for self-discovery

I am from the self-inflicted shame of my past.
From the personal development books to the journal entries

From the Instagram posts and big smiles

From laughter, friendships, love, and good food

I am from right now.

I am Marko.

When I completed the writing of the most raw and truthful parts of me, I read it to a group of people who only ever saw “the tip of my iceberg.” Through tears and thoughtful feedback. I had given people comfort and solace that, they too, could talk about the stuff that hurts and where they come from.

So, in this crazy journey, the dark has scared the hell out of me and shaken me to the core, but the light is where it’s at. That’s where the juicy stuff comes in. The laughter, the smiles, the love. It’s all there. People will be intimidated when you stand in it. Embrace it, pull them in. We are all meant to walk on that path; sometimes it just takes us a while to get there. I am utterly grateful that I can share my story with you. Woo-woo shit in all, I will keep sitting here–writing, talking, laughing, crying. Come stand with me. Find your balance of dark and light.

Be inspired. Stay positive. Love yourself.

Originally published at