Monday, July 1, 2013
The 17,356,317 minute journey…
July 1, 2013
Have you ever had a secret that you felt like you could not share with anyone? This is an excerpt about part of my journey carrying a secret for most of my life. It is with me every day, when I wake up in the morning until I go to bed each night. It is always there casting doubts, pointing it’s finger at me and laughing. It makes me feel embarrassed and ashamed. It reminds me that I am different. It makes me second guess myself. It has made me see the pain in other people’s eyes, even when they smile. It has shown me that I am stronger than my secret and it cannot destroy me. It has given me a level of compassion and empathy that I am proud to own. It has made me realize that I am not a victim. I am a survivor and this is a small part of my story…
It was December of 1988 and I was with my mom in Fayetteville, North Carolina. We were going to see a movie that day. That movie was called Beaches. I had seen the previews on television and I begged my mom to take me to see the movie. It had two actresses that I had never heard of before because most of my time consisted of exploring outside and taking care of any animal that crossed my path. Those actresses were Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. When I returned home from the movie, I wrote a letter to Bette Midler. I was determined that she would want talk to me after I wrote this letter. Nothing was stopping me. I needed to talk to her. It was THAT important.
December 28, 1988
Dear Ms. Midler,
Hi. My name is Valerie Draughon. I am 12 years and I live in North Carolina. I saw your movie Beaches today and I wanted to write you a letter. See, I am a lot like C. C. Bloom. I have never ever fit in anywhere. I want to be an actress or a veterinarian when I grow up. Maybe one day you can show me how you learned to act and sing so well. I have been taking voice and piano lessons but I don’t like the piano lessons that much because when I make a mistake, my teacher hits me on my hands with a fly swatter and it stings. But, I love singing. I sing to my two dogs Buddy and Pookie all of the time and I pretend they are my audience. I have never written to anyone famous before but I can tell that you are an amazing person. I hope that one day I can meet you. I will even sing a song for you and maybe you can sing a song for me too. Thank you for reading my letter. I know that you are very busy. P.S. I love your red hair. My hair is auburn and everyone tells me I look like my grandmother.
Your #1 Fan,
Valerie Marie Draughon
(fast forward 25 years later….)
June 25, 2013
Dear Ms. Midler,
Hi. My name is Valerie Draughon. I flew to New York City this week to see you in your Broadway show. I attended your show on Friday, June 28th, 2013. I was able to meet you on Saturday thanks to your kind security guard. I talked with him early on Saturday afternoon and he told me he would help me meet you. I could hardly believe it. But, it happened….
I have never shared my story with anyone until today. This letter is the first time I am sharing my secret with the world. It is through your music that I have been able to make it through some really unbearable times during my life. And, you taught me that it is okay to be different. I was sexually abused from the time I was 3 years old until I was 7 years old. I have never been able to talk about it with anyone for fear that they would think less of me. I really didn’t understand what was going on or what was happening. I was in the hospital off and on for those 4 years because no one could figure out what was wrong with me. I wanted to tell someone. I just didn’t know how. I didn’t know that what was happening to me was wrong. I stopped talking shortly after I was 4 years old and I would cling to my parents. I felt scared all of the time. I knew he was going to come back and get me. I just didn’t know when. I excelled in school and I managed to make some very close friends. But, still, I knew that I was different. I got to the point that I would not let anyone touch me. I would freeze up if someone tried to hug me. Or, if someone gave me a compliment, I would act like I did not hear them. Inside, I was in meltdown mode but on the outside I tried to pretend that I was just like everyone else because that is all I wanted to be….loved and normal.
When I saw that you were having a limited performance run of your show on Broadway, I knew that I had to figure out a way to make it to New York City to see this performance. I knew you wouldn’t be singing but just having the opportunity to see you on a theatre stage would be a dream come true.
And, I knew that I was ready. It was time for me to share my secret with the world.
I was ushered in on Friday night to my seat on the second row. I met a few people while we were waiting for the curtain to rise. Then, you came on stage. The energy in that room was epic. It is something I will never ever forget. It seemed like the shortest 90 minutes of my life. And, when you said “Go ahead, cross the playground, what have you got to lose?” I saw the tears streaming down your face and let me tell you, they were pouring down mine as well. That was my point of realization. I am not ashamed of my past. I am not embarrassed that things happened to me that were out of my control. I have the courage to survive and live a healthy and happy life. I deserve that kind of life. It is my job to help others realize that no matter what we go through, no matter how alone we may feel at times, that we can move on. I know you may never read this, but you have helped me in ways that are immeasurable. I have a scrapbook that I have been working on since I was 12 years old. Maybe one day, I can show you that book. It is worn and a little rough around the edges, but it doesn’t change the fact that it has helped me survive in this crazy world. Thank you Bette Midler from the bottom of my heart. You have changed my life. I am now able to talk. I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off of my shoulders. I feel free! If just one person reads this and I can help them realize that life can go on my goal will have been fulfilled. I want to leave a mark on this world and I want to make a difference. Not just for me, but for all those voiceless kids who are too afraid and scared to speak up. Different is okay. I can look at myself in the mirror and smile. A smile that starts from somewhere deep inside and resonates everywhere.
Thank you for being my hero.
With deepest sincerity,
Valerie M. Draughon
If you took the time to read this, I want to say thank you. I have never claimed to be a writer. I just wanted to share my story in hopes that people understand me. I am still quite cautious to this day. I still freeze up if someone tries to hug me. But, I have one of the most caring hearts that you will ever stumble across. I tend to be too nice and too forgiving at times. So, the next time you meet someone who seems like “luck” is always on their side, trust me, there is a story there. Sometimes the toughest roads give us the most strength. Sometimes.
If you’d like to talk to Valerie or leave her a comment, then Click Here