12/12/12 was a Wednesday. During calendar that day I talked to my students about how special this date was, and that it was the last like it for a very long time. That moment still stands out so strongly to me. Perhaps because I had no idea what 2 days later would bring. Perhaps because it truly would be the last day like it, not just for a very long time, but ever.

Over the course of the past 4 years I have learned many lessons. Some harder than others. One of the most poignant and lasting, is that pain is universal, and that in sharing it, we are in turn freed. Vulnerability, putting ourselves out there, sharing our own hard stuff is liberating and freeing for ourselves, but it also helps those around us who are also suffering. Sharing our pain is a reminder-”I’m not alone.” “You are not alone.” “We, in fact, are together in this. And not alone.”

As is stated in most wedding vows(or something to the affect of): ‘We are all connected: in pain, sadness, good times and bad.’ It is this universal connectedness that enables us to support one another in our lowest times and celebrate one another during the highest highs.

I remember vividly one of the first times I ever spoke and delivered my message. I climbed down from the stage and a line of audience members formed. They wanted to say hello, give me a hug, they wanted to share. They wanted to share their own stories, their own pain, their own hard times. I believe they wanted to make sure I didn’t feel alone. And so they shared their stories of loss, illness, adversity-and many as they did quickly followed up with ‘I know it’s nothing like yours.’

This struck something deep inside of me, because for so long after the tragedy I did feel so alone, until I realized, I absolutely was not. ‘Yes it is.’ I thought-’That’s exactly like my dark time.’ You see what I realized with those first interactions way back then and allowing myself to be vulnerable and share-was that pain is universal. Suffering is something we all share. Not one of us can escape it.

When we share our darkness, we inevitably find the light.

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Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on December 13, 2016.

Originally published at medium.com