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The First 22 Years Are the Hardest, a memoir by Angela Giles Klocke
Begin Here: Introduction

I am forever grateful for every single person who went on this journey with me, from the earliest drafts that I shared online through the stages of my grief and healing (who remembers those really angry versions?), to this version that is the best it could be because I am in the best place I could be now.

Along the way, my husband John has supported every effort, even when I quit, even when I had nightmares, even when I vowed to never write another word on this book (I wonder how much he believed me when I burned those early versions in Georgia…) and then turned around and wrote more words. I am grateful for his gentle coaxing while also giving me space to process. It can’t be easy to watch someone you love purposely visit a hard past that hurts.

I am thankful for my children, who have given me grace as an imperfect parent, and who have also believe in all my dreams and cheer me on every day. They’ve been my greatest reason – my favorite part of this life – to press on and be a survivor. Extra grateful that you each agreed to allow the use of your real first name. (Scott: I don’t care. Brian: It’s fine. If the book gets published, it’s not like people are going to recognize me on the street. Stacey: Sure, it’s not like I did anything wrong.) You make me laugh every day!

In 2012, I met my amazing counselor Liz Hansen, and though we didn’t spend time beyond that year together, she was the first to give me permission to write my real story and to feel my emotions. Liz reminded me of how strong I am, and she pushed me toward my strength, never trying to hold me to a place of wallowing just to drag out sessions.

I couldn’t even begin to list all the friends who have cheered me on. But there are many who have taken it upon themselves to push me when I was ready to let go, to ask me hard questions, and to remind me that all of this matters. Shae Thomas, Rachelle Yutzy, Tina Champlin, Rachel Champlin, Autumn Champlin, Aleta Summers, Hope Wilbanks, Diane Allen — each has either spoken truth into my journey or read early versions or helped with proofreading and editing.

Big hugs to Toni McLellan, who coached me through some big decisions and then moved all the way to Colorado just for me! (Well, that first part is true.)

In 2015, I joined Toastmasters and I had no idea how doing so would feed this book. Being given the opportunity to see the impact of parts of my story helped me remember how important it is to stick it out, and I am so thankful to my club, the Colorado Orators League, and specifically to my mentor, Dave Mead, who guided me and reminded me time and time again that I am doing an important work.

I am really especially grateful to have been chosen to be a speaker for TEDx Colorado Springs 2017, where I felt like I could speak to some of my journey of healing from a bigger platform, and more importantly, find a good place to transition into a more whole version of myself. As I walked back across the stage, I felt a true release of what was, and I am able to step into what is.

Finally, last but never least, my Quirky Mountain Town writing group — Debbie Maxwell Allen, Kelley J. Leigh, and Shelly Piazza Worscheck. I abandoned this book and was working on my second memoir when I let them read an earlier version. All three immediately told me this was the book to come back to first. Without your direction to come back to this part of the journey, I would have kept finding reasons why I didn’t want to. Your support each week, whether we talked about writing or we cried, was exactly what I needed. I can’t believe I didn’t know you were the missing piece. (By the way, I still continued on the other book. I needed to spend time in that lighter place of healing — balance the light with the darkness.) Kelley and her family gave me a room of my own to write in, so to speak, and I am forever grateful for the hot water provided by her sons, Isaac and Lucas.

If you don’t find your name here but you are in my life, you are in my life for a reason. I don’t do toxic relationships anymore, and so I hope you know I appreciate you. I hope you know I love the way you love me, that I am a better person because of each of you, that I am more whole as a survivor because you care.

And to you, dear reader, thank you. Thank you for going on this journey with me. I hope something about my story helped you see what the darkness looks like, and that you will keep shining light into the darkness. If you need help or someone to talk with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or your local hotline.

Final FINAL thanks for the permission to use your real name, Captain Crandell, despite the fact that you aren’t even in the book. Pastalavista!

I’d Love to Hear From You!