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Tracy Strauss's debut memoir discusses past trauma and 21st century dating

On the Why We Write podcast: MFA in Creative Writing alumna Tracy Strauss writes "an open love letter" to her future spouse in her new book "I Just Haven't Met You Yet."

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Episode notes

Tracy Strauss's debut memoir, "I Just Haven't Met You Yet," explores her process of healing as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and the pursuit of love in the 21st century. A graduate of Lesley University's MFA in Creative Writing program, Tracy has written extensively on love and dating and her essays have been published in Glamour, New York Magazine, Oprah Magazine, The Millions, Ms. Magazine, The Huffington Post, Salon, Publishers Weekly, Ploughshares, The Rumpus, and other publications.

"I Just Haven't Met You Yet" was named a hardcover bestseller by Harvard Bookstore and Diesel Bookstore, an Audio File Magazine 2019 Earphones Award Winner, and was selected for Books on the T.

Read more about Tracy and find more information about her book on her website.

In this interview, she speaks with Amanda McGregor.

Check out all our episodes on our podcast page or just go ahead and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play or Spotify.

  • Transcript

    Announcer: This Is Why We Write, a podcast of Lesley University. Each week, we bring you conversations with authors from the Lesley Community to talk about books, writing and the writing life. Today's episode contains a content warning for discussion of sexual abuse. Please practice self-care and skip this episode if you need to.

    Amanda McGregor: I'm Amanda McGregor and I'm a former news journalist and newspaper editor. Now I work at Lesley University on the communications team. My guest today is a Lesley alumna, Tracy Strauss. We're here together on Lesley’s Doble Campus to talk about her new book, I Just Haven't Met You Yet: Finding Empowerment in Dating, Love and Life. Welcome, Tracy.

    Tracy: Hi, it's great to be here.

    Amanda: It's great to have you. Your book is part memoir interspersed with open love letters that you've penned to your future life partner. How did you come up with this concept for your book?

    Tracy: Oh, that's a great question. Everyone is always interested in an inception story and how things sort of came to be. I think for me in the very beginning, I didn't even imagine that this is how the book would turn out. The book is probably about a fifteen-year process of writing and sending it out for publication and it went through various iterations. But, in the end, I had tried so many ways to meet my life partner, but I never tried writing a letter to him. And so it became this way that I could reach out to him and have a conversation even though I hadn't met him yet.

    And when I started sharing some of the letters with workshops for feedback, people were really drawn in by the intimacy of the letters, so that the letters really, I think, reflect the intimacy of partnership. Then those letters in the book segue into narratives that illustrate the whole process of a single woman trying to actually find that partnership. So that's kind of where it came to be.

    Amanda: Okay, great. There are some really funny parts in your book about your escapades into online dating and speed dating like whisky tastings for a person who doesn't drink. That's natural comedy right there. But, the book also traces your painful and tragic personal story as a childhood sexual abuse survivor. So first let's talk about the dating. How did you approach sharing this with your readers?

    Tracy: Approached sharing the dating escapades? For me, writing has always been a way in which I cope with life circumstances and dating is not an exception to that. In a lot of ways, dating can just be so absurd at times, right, so we have to find a way to have some humor about it. I began sharing my dating stories on Facebook with my closest friends and they became so enthralled with these stories. [laughs] And I was like "But this is my life. This isn't supposed to be funny, this is my life."

    [laughs] But then they got me to laugh about it. And it kind of caught on for me this idea of sharing it with a wider audience. Eventually, some of my anecdotes made their way to the Huffington Post. And then actually, one of those pieces actually caught the eye of a producer for a talk show, TV talk show. So, I never imagined that it would lead to such a wide audience, but apparently it did catch on.

    Amanda: Well, they're great. I mean you share some horror stories, like this man you met online who went on about how he's only "technically" married and then trying to get you to come home with him. And there's one portion I just wanted to read because I think it's just so indicative of what—

    Tracy: [laughs] Yes.

    Amanda: —what people encounter. Okay so I'm reading from one of Tracy's chapters here. It's a chapter called, Good Luck to Me, My 1,000th Adventure in Online Dating:

    Sean's online dating profile, including one paragraph, painted a portrait of a smart, single, 38-year-old lawyer, tall and fit with dirty blonde hair and a love of hiking. In his bio, he stated that he valued long-term monogamous relationships and wanted to one day get married and have kids. I held the same priorities and goals. As I sipped a glass of lemonade, I pondered whether a 38-year-old could resemble a man in his mid-50s.

    And you go on to kind of talk about how dishonest his dating profile was and it was really funny. So I was wondering if you can just talk a little bit about how you depict this for readers.

    Tracy: Believe it or not, my goal was to depict the facts and to try not to impose a reaction or slant for my readers. I wanted my readers to figure that out themselves. So to kind of recreate that experience on the page. Obviously, it is from my perspective and being in my skin during that.

    So one of the things that happens to me generally, but also on dates, is I really—maybe it's just the writer in me—I really pay attention to the details, and the very minute details of things that are happening around me. Maybe it's just a way that keeps me grounded and in the moment. So that, for me, is just a way of recreating the scene on the page.

    Then to bring the moment alive, to try to—A lot of those dates took place in a coffee shop. A lot of us have been in a coffee shop from time to time and we see these dates happening. It can be a very awkward thing. So I wanted my reader to be able to eavesdrop in a way.

    Amanda: That's great.

    Tracy: Yeah.

    Amanda: And you don't drink alcohol, or coffee, for that matter.

    Tracy: [laughs]

    Amanda: And I think that illuminates your journey to navigate dating while staying true to yourself, which is definitely a theme in the book. What do you want your readers to come away with, with respect to that?

    Tracy: It took me a really long time to understand that authenticity was the key to finding a really good real relationship. For a number of years, I was trying to live up to the expectations of other people or other people's desires and needs and not understanding that that wasn't going to work, so that I needed to figure out who I was. It took me a long time to accept my own flaws. I remember actually my final semester here at Lesley, I was having dinner with my thesis advisor, Leah Hager Cohen. And we were talking about my writing and about—

    You know things naturally progress to talking about some of the issues in my writing. And she said, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could go on a date and just say, 'I don't drink.'" And I thought, "Wow. That's a revolutionary [laughs] concept."

    And she was right. She was right. It can be very freeing to just be you. Actually, in the number of men who I've met who are, to my surprise, relieved to know that I don't drink because they don't drink either or they just drink in a very limited way. A lot of times when you say that you don't drink, people are like, "Why? Are you an alcoholic?"

    Amanda: Right, yeah.

    Tracy: Yeah, there are assumptions that are made. And so, a lot of time, people feel that there's a reason to be ashamed for if you don't drink alcohol or you don't drink coffee. I love the smell of coffee, but I don't drink it because I just don't like the taste. And I get caffeine in other ways. There's tea, there's caffeine, there's chocolate.

    Amanda: That's an important one. [chuckles]

    Tracy: There are other ways. Those were just symbolic ways of being yourself. But really, I didn't start finding healthy, good, fun, meaningful relationships until I just was comfortable being myself.

    Amanda: Your book is also about your childhood experiences and how those made it overwhelmingly difficult to date and to share sexual intimacy. Can you explain this a little bit for our listeners who may not have read the book yet?

    Tracy: Yeah sure. So in part, the book talks about how sexual abuse during my childhood affected my ability to form healthy relationships and romantic relationships in part. We all have baggage. Whatever experience we've had as children or through our young adulthood, they shape us and they affect how we relate to people. For me, for many years in my twenties, I isolated myself out of not having dealt with my history. That affected my social development. That's very common for sexual abuse survivors.

    The book talks about the need to face my history in order to move forward in my life. It wasn't until I went to therapy and really looked at what had happened to me and the many ways that it affected not just my romantic life, but other aspects of my life as well, could I actually see.

    They say knowledge is power, and it really is. Once you know, then you can do something about it. It took a number of years before I could really put myself out there in a way that was going to be productive. When you go on dates, many times the frequent question is, "Well, how many relationships have you had?" Or talking about your relationship history.

    And I had to grow comfortable with sharing, "Well, I had something happen to me and I decided to take the time to examine myself so that I would be ready and able to be in a healthy relationship rather than going into a relationship and it becoming a trainwreck." There are choices that we make but ultimately dealing with whatever has happened to us can only help us to move forward and to be in relationship with others.

    Amanda: Yeah. When I read online reviews of your book on Goodreads, and Amazon, and other places, the words "honest" and "brave" keep coming up. When did you decide you were ready to share your childhood sexual trauma and your PTSD and your journey to healing?

    Tracy: Wow, that's a great question. I don't think anyone's ever asked me that before. Wow.

    I think in the very beginning, after I was diagnosed with PTSD, I wrote just for myself. I didn't want to share my story with people. I was afraid of their reactions. At that time of my life, as I mentioned previously, I really isolated myself. I really wanted to be connected with other people and I wanted to be in community with other people. And in order to do that, I needed to share my story. People were sharing their stories and I realized I needed to share mine.

    It was really hard to do that at first. When I disclosed my story, I talk about this in the book, to my mother for example, her reaction was, "Oh. It was very upsetting." She told me that she didn't want me to talk about it anymore, that she wouldn't be able to get out of bed in the morning, she wouldn't be able to do her job or really live her life if she knew what had happened even though she said she knew that it happened.

    There was a need for denial. There was a need for silence in order to protect her, to protect people that I loved. I was afraid when I came out in public that I would get the same reaction. It just became a choice that I made that I either needed to live my life or not live at all.

    I took the step and I enrolled in workshops. Some of those workshops were very positive experiences, some of them were very scary experiences for me. The reactions ran the gamut. Some people who really related to what I was saying and others who praised the writing, and then others who reacted out of their own fears regarding sexual abuse.

    I came to understand that there's a cultural conditioned fear around looking at, hearing about, acknowledging, talking about, dealing with sexual violence in our society. That was something that I wasn't prepared for when I first decided to share my story, but it was something that I needed to grapple with and then I had to learn to grapple with on the page.

    Otherwise, my readers were not going to stay on that journey with me. I began this several-year journey, eight to ten year journey of trying to figure out what writing techniques I needed to use to help my readers who had various experiences to be able to accept my story, learn from it, connect with it.

    Amanda: Much of your book is dedicated to this journey of recovery from the complex post-traumatic stress disorder. And this all began, the recovery began, when you met Dr. Ross, your therapist, when you were 28 and you were meeting with him three times weekly, working really hard to recover. I found it really illuminating. Did you intend to give readers a better understanding of PTSD? Because I certainly came away with a much better one than I had previously.

    Tracy: I'm so glad. I've never felt like I could speak for other people's experiences with PTSD, but I could speak to my own. If that helps people to understand more of that it's about, I'm so glad for that. Everyone has their own set of symptoms and stories behind it and how they cope and how they recover, but I think a lot of us—It is very hard for people who haven't experienced it to understand really what it's like. If I could recreate that in some way that's understandable, I'm glad.

    Amanda: You described it so well in your writing. Again, I feel like I'm right there with you. I come away with empathy and understanding.

    Tracy: That's great. Thank you.

    Amanda: It's a really good experience as a reader. Well done there. You also write about the power of animals and relationships with animals. In your case, cats. How can animals help in recovery from trauma?

    Tracy: Oh, I mean, animals have unconditional love. Many animals also come from very difficult, traumatic backgrounds. In my own experience, I could see in a compressed way the way that my own cat, who I described in the book, Hanna, was able to heal from her own traumatic past in a way that was sort of foreshadowing my own. I mean part of our healing happened together but hers—a cat's life is much shorter than a human's life. I got to witness that and to see her really become the being who she was born as. That was just amazing.

    Amanda: And at what point in your journey did you enroll here at Lesley University in the master's program in creative writing and why did you choose Lesley?

    Tracy: I enrolled here in 2011 and I had been working on this story for, I would say, six or seven years at that point. I came to a turning point and decided that I wanted to devote time to really getting the manuscript into the shape that it needed to be in. I was really committed at that point to getting my story out there in the best way possible. I wanted to really go back to learning skills and techniques for storytelling and also to have the deadlines to really get me to commit to getting the manuscript finished.

    It just so happened that life converged. In the semester that I started, my mother passed away. A lot of what's in the book now hadn't actually happened until then. A lot of the material that I started to generate during the program made it into the book and it wouldn't have been there previously.

    I really am grateful for the guidance that I had from my mentors in the MFA program. During that time, they were just really compassionate and really encouraging. I learned a lot from my classmates and in workshops. Also at the time, I basically lived across the street from Lesley so it was so convenient to be here. I had to work full-time. I didn't have the means to not work and go to school. Being at Lesley allowed me to do both.

    Amanda: Some of the people that you thank and acknowledge in your book are your Lesley University professors including Leah Hager Cohen and Rachel Kadish and Kyoko Mori. So that role did they play in this final book here?

    Tracy: Each of them—I started off with Alex Johnson my first semester. Each of them brought a new perspective to my work and a new way for me to look at how I was presenting my story. What I loved about the program was this ability to learn from successful writers who had different interests, different ways of approaching material, and then to figure out what was then my particular way of looking at my material. So to learn from writers who have such a unique stamp on their careers in writing was a great inspiration for me.

    Amanda: It was a challenge to find a publisher who wanted to tell your story because the subject is a tough sell, so to speak. What advice you have for other writers in a similar situation?

    Tracy: I'd say the first thing is to master the industry, don't let the industry master you.

    Amanda: Okay, good advice.

    Tracy: And persist, persist, persist. I went through a ten year process of trying to get the book published. That did include going to workshops, writers’ conferences, and networking with industry professionals and kind of learning what were the trends in the industry, what were people saying in the industry about certain subject matter?

    I heard things, like, "do not send us anything that has a context of sexual abuse. The market is flooded with such stories," or "there's no readership for such stories," and those were paradoxical statements.

    And I did my research and they weren't true. So for my own journey I needed to figure out, how do I get around that? Who are my helpers? I had a lot of doors that would open and then shut. I queried over three hundred literary agents.

    Amanda: Oh my goodness.

    Tracy: I signed with three of them on separate manuscripts, separate iterations of the manuscript, over the course of the decade. And the final agent—well, I'll say previously, one of the agents actually, the manuscript went to a very large commercial publisher and the executive editor held on to that manuscript for 10 months.

    We were supposed to have a meeting and I thought it was going to happen, and I was so excited. I was like, “This is it, this is it, it's happening.” And then—nothing happened. We had radio silence. And then finally, it was determined that the publisher wasn't going to take on memoirs anymore because they had a really bad sell for one of their memoirs. And so it was like ups and downs and thinking, "the open door was now closed, does that mean I should give up?"

    Then my last agent submitted the work and eleven editors declined, and she decided that that was the end of the road for her and she wasn't going to submit any further. And I really thought it was the end of the road for me as well, cause it had been ten years and I thought, maybe I really—maybe all signs point to no. And I've just been masochistic trying to get this to happen.

    I got very depressed. One of my writer friends said, “You know, you need to write about your experience trying to publish this story and tell the world what this has been like and why is it that there is such an issue with—" I mean, my book is about so much more than sexual violence. That is part of the context, but it is so much bigger than that. I am so much bigger than that. Why is it that publishers can't see that as well?

    And I was depressed, so I thought, well, what's the point? What's the point in writing something like this? I ended up writing about it because for me, writing has always been the thing that keeps my head above water. So when I'm feeling really low, writing is the thing that keeps me going.

    So I wrote it. And I didn't want it to be some bitch and moan essay. I just wanted it to be the facts of what had happened. Publishers Weekly picked it up, which shocked me, cause they are the face of the publishing industry. The original piece was 1,500 words and the editor said, “We need to cut this to 824, can you do it?” I was like, “Yes! I can do it.”

    [laughter]

    And so one of my course responsibilities as a graduating graduate student here, was to do a seminar on concision. And I put it to use for this essay.

    [laughter]

    So the piece was published and my publisher for I Just Haven't Met You Yet, reached out and said, “Can you send us the manuscript?” And two weeks later, they offered to publish it. I didn't think that that would happen, if my friend hadn’t said, “You need to write about this.” I don't know, maybe I would have at some point, but I never thought that it would lead to the book finally happening.

    Amanda: Yeah. Wow, that's a great start.

    Tracy: Yeah you just have to—even when you think the—it’s a dead end, or the journey is over, well, no, it is just beginning.

    Amanda: That's inspiring.

    Tracy: And if I had given up, I would never have published the book.

    Amanda: Right! Right.

    So, in addition to the physical abuse and sexual abuse you talk about in the book you also experienced psychological torment. At one point in the story while you're in college, your abuser creates a fake email address and poses as a secret admirer, and throughout the book, it's really painful to read about the loving adults in your life who missed the signs or perhaps subconsciously chose not to see them. Can you talk about your process of coming to terms with loved ones and namely your mother?

    Tracy: Yes, yes. You know, and I wanna preface this by saying that my experience is only my experience and for those who are dealing with loved ones, it's a very complicated thing. Everyone has their own way of navigating this.

    For me, it was a process of coming to terms with my mother's limitations and understanding how much she really did love me and I loved her. There was a moment when she had just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and I was scheduled to give a reading a writer's—for a literary journal at a writer’s conference. I went to the reading and my mother wanted a copy of the piece and the piece dealt with some psychological torment from our family.

    My mother was a writer and an editor and she always encouraged me to write but she was afraid of my writing about our family. She was afraid because she felt that people wouldn't like us anymore and that we would be ostracized. That was part of her own way of seeing the world from her own traumas.

    So I had really mixed feelings about this piece and she wanted to read it. I was like, “Okay, I'll bring you a copy.” I went to visit her and she took the copy of the journal, and she started reading and I was like, “You're gonna read it now?” And she said, “What, you don't want me to?” I said, “No, that's fine.”

    But I was really worried because she had previously said she couldn't handle hearing about my truth, and she had just been diagnosed with a very serious cancer and I was worried about how it would affect her.

    But that was her decision. She read it in front of me and she had this moment of deep apology. And she—I portray this in the book—where she really reached out to me in a way that was very genuine and that really touched me deeply. I understood in that moment, just how sorry she was that she wasn't able to protect me as a child and acknowledging her own limitations and her flaws and her part in enabling the abuse to happen.

    It was a really short window of time, She went back to her deflecting and avoidance after that, but that for me was what allowed me to come to a place of reconciliation with her and it didn't actually happen right away. It was about a year later, that suddenly I felt this forgiveness toward her.

    I was always really conflicted about what forgiveness was. People would say you have to forgive, that you're supposed to forgive. You can't force that kind of thing. For me, it ended up becoming a way of letting go of what I couldn't change. Thankfully, I was actually able to do that, while she was still alive, but it was such a really complicated process.

    I've actually gotten a lot of feedback from readers over the years, not even just from the book, but some essays I've written about my relationship with my mother just about forgiveness and how it is that you come to terms with family members when a real crisis has happened. It's hard. It's hard.

    Amanda: You also deal very honestly with your mother's death and your complex emotions around that. What was it like to write about all of this?

    Tracy: For me, it was happening, as I mentioned, while I was a student here at Lesley. It became a way, first, for me to sort of have some sort of sense of control over something that I had no control over. For me, writing is a way of having, for getting some empowerment. There's something about language that, for me, to be able to capture something on the page and experience on the page, it's a way of feeling empowered. I think that was where I was coming from my motivation for writing about it. Eventually, we all experience the death of a parent. It can be—it's devastating in a number of ways.

    How is it that we move forward from that? How is it that we can still live our lives and maybe even live better lives once we've gone through that? That was important to me. Sharing with my audience that there's a way to, for lack of a better word, transcend something that's just tragic.

    Amanda: How do people in your life like your brother, and your aunt, and friends, and colleagues feel about you writing this book?

    Tracy: That's a great question. I don't wanna speak for them, but I did share the manuscript with them at various stages. It was really important to me to, first of all, make sure that I was being factually correct. If there was anything that they felt was not true, then I would change that. If there were moments that inadvertently invaded their privacy, I wanted to know that so that I could not invade their privacy and change that in the manuscript. I made sure just to do that. And also my aunt was amazing in reading this manuscript. She had every appropriate emotion to every difficult, serious, funny experience that's in the book.

    And it was—I don't even know I have the words of it and I'm a writer, I should have the words for it. But, it meant so much to me to hear from her reactions to the book. And she actually ended up—she came with me to my book launch in New York, she surprised me at Harvard Bookstore here in Cambridge. It's meant the world to me to have her presence and the presence of my family and my friends as this book has come out. It's been more than I ever imagined.

    Amanda: For readers familiar with the Cambridge and Boston area, it's a joy to imagine your dates and your life around the city, navigating Crema Cafe and the Center for Adult Education and Harvard Yard. Can you talk a little bit about how you use sense of place in your memoir?

    Tracy: Yes. Boston for me has always been just an inspiring literary community. I grew up in New York. When I moved here, I originally came for a graduate school not at Lesley, but I have another graduate degree from Boston University. I came here in the late '90s and I just, I loved it here. And then I wasn't able to stay, financially, I couldn't, I just couldn't make it here. And so I went back to New York for a job. I missed it so much that I came back and I vowed that when I came back here, I would never take anything for granted here, especially the literary community. A lot of my experiences in the book took place here. It was important for me to make this place come alive in the book.

    Amanda: Yeah, you really do.

    Tracy: And in a way, it's for me, a tribute to the place that has inspired me so much. Unfortunately, Crema Cafe is closed now.

    Amanda: I know. I was so sad when I read that.

    Tracy: This area has been such a big part of my life that to not have it—I mean, it's a character, really, in the book itself. So to not have it in the book was just not an option. Also, I think when we're writing about, in particular when we're writing about trauma, one of the ways that we can mitigate some of that on the page is to ground the reader in setting. To bring that for the reader into place and time has always been an important aspect of telling the story.

    Amanda: That's really interesting. And I can see how effective it is now that you articulated it.

    [laughter]

    Amanda: That's what you're doing with me. That's great. You teach writing now. Where do you teach and what are you teaching?

    Tracy: I teach Writing and Liberal Arts at the New England Conservatory. And I also, from time to time, I teach workshops at GrubStreet. I recently taught a workshop there on writing narrative fiction about sexual violence for survivors, which was an incredibly intense and meaningful workshop to teach. But my full-time gig is teaching college writing, film studies and literature to music students. It's a different perspective, bringing a different perspective to writing.

    Amanda: So it's one thing to be a writer, one thing to teach writing. You kind of navigate those two, that duality, I guess.

    Tracy: Yes. Sometimes teaching writing fuels my writing. If I'm teaching like creative writing. Other times, it's more formulaic writing, like college writing. And so that is more of a—it imposes ideas about structure. When I'm teaching students, allowing them to understand the tools of sharing their voices, their unique voices with the world. Like that to me, that kind of empowerment is really important to me. I consider teaching a vocation along with writing. It's an extension of writing in that way.

    Amanda: Let's talk about the title of your book. [chuckles] Why did you choose a Michael Bublé song?

    Tracy: I know some people are like, "Please. Why did you do that?" Now people have it in their heads. But it's not a bad thing. I was stuck in traffic. I had a sick cat at the time, I was stuck in traffic after picking up cat food for this cat. I was sitting there and the song came on the radio. I was having a really difficult time. At that point in time, I just felt really stuck in my life. And here I was sitting in traffic, so I was stuck. And the stuckness was just permeating everything.

    There's this hopefulness in this song I Just Haven't Met You Yet that I had always had in my life but I had lost in that moment. When I heard this song, that to me was what the title of the book needed to be. It wasn't even so much the love relationship part of the song but it was the hopefulness in life in a more general sense and not allowing that hope to die off even when things got that difficult.

    Amanda: In the end, one of your key messages to readers is about the notion of finding a partner rather than someone who completes us, so to speak, can you talk about this?

    Tracy: Yes. The Jerry Maguire movie and the famous line from there is, "You complete me." Then the other one says, "You complete me." That's about codependency rather than a true partnership, from my perspective anyway. I didn't always understand that. The myth about relationships I think is that you find your partner and now your whole life is complete and you've reached the finish line and now you're all set.

    That's just not the case. Relationships are not perfect. Relationships have lots of conflict. Hopefully, in a relationship, there's growth. Individual growth, as well as growth as a couple. So part of the lessons, the big lesson, that I learned was this idea of what it was that I wanted in a partnership. It wasn't two halves make a whole, it was two wholes make a couple.

    Amanda: Yeah. Great. That was a really important takeaway I thought. Now that you have a book and your essays on dating are widely published, does this ever interfere with dating and are men ever afraid they'll become fodder for a future essay or social media post?

    Tracy: Great question. I don't advertise that I write about dating. I recently dated a guy who bought my book and read the first fifty pages. I had shared with him about my history before he started reading the book. There's this interesting thing that takes place in terms of disclosure and how it is that you want to share yourself with a partner, and what is the pace for that.

    Is it you give your book to your partner and they read up on your story? Well, not many people do that, right? Yes, I have a book and yes I have these essays. I think the–the thing that I've always subscribed to is I've written these things but this is only a small part of what it is that I want you to know.

    This is, to me, writing is an art form. And so the product, the essay or the book, is an art form. It is not my whole life, it is not the whole of me. This person who I was dating, actually we made a decision that he wasn't going to read the book until we got to know each other more. I found that to be a really important thing as well. Also, as he started reading, I would say, "If you have any questions, let me know." Or, "Please don't come to certain assumptions just based upon what you've read in this book." I think there's a risk of people making incorrect assumptions by what they read.

    It's not even just for my own material but online dating profiles, we make assumptions all the time about the people who we're meeting online and then we meet them in person and they don't match up. I know I've talked in the book about not matching up factually speaking, but personality-wise is more what I'm talking about here, is you really don't know the actual person until you get to know them in person. It is complicated because I've written about my history and my dates, but I think that I'm not doing that at the moment and I haven't for a while, so I think the guys who I've met in the last couple of years or so understand that it's okay, the book has been written.

    [laughter]

    Amanda: You're safe. [chuckles] For now.

    Tracy: Well, there could be a Modern Love essay in the works.

    [laughter]

    Amanda: Let's end on one of your poignant and humorous anecdotes from the book. When you take a big step of going on vacation by yourself to Acadia National Park and there's a lot of personal growth, there's also some humor, you get seasick on a sunset kayaking ride. It seems like this journey illuminates the overall story in some ways. Can you talk a little bit about sharing that?

    Tracy: Yeah. I had learned—my mother had this belief that single women—it was too dangerous for a single woman to travel alone. By dangerous, I mean she believed that there is a real risk that the women or I in particular, her daughter, would get raped and killed. She had seen a story on the news that kind of just became this global thing in her mind about abduction.

    And so after she died I had to decide—it was easier after she died to decide if I was going to still subscribe to her beliefs or not. I decided I was going to venture off and go on this solo trip. Even from just driving there and then getting there and then deciding what I was going to do, I decided to go on this sunset kayaking tour because I really wanted to.

    Then I showed up and I was the only single person. I didn't think about that before I got there. The other couples, there were two people in a kayak and then there was me in one, a single. The two people kayaked a lot faster than I did.

    It became this metaphor for me that oh, I'm this single person just trying to paddle through life. Then we have these couples who are doing this together and it seems like it's so much easier for them. I think we fall into that trap of thinking the grass is greener. Yet my married friends were like, "It's so great you get to go on this trip by yourself and do your own thing. You don't have to worry about anybody else's schedules or what they want to do."

    I was like, "Okay." They saw me as being the lucky one. That trip for me became really an education. I had this light bulb moment just about what it meant to be alone, but not alone, and to be part of a greater community. I had this moment on the top of Cadillac Mountain, and I won't go into too much detail about it so readers can just read it. It just suddenly kind of made sense to me about my place and where I was going. I just had this sense of peace about it.

    Amanda: Great. Well, thank you so much, Tracy, for this honest and important book and for speaking with me today. I look forward to our listeners picking up the book and enjoying it themselves. It's just been a pleasure and an honor to talk with you today.

    Tracy: Thank you so much for having me. It's a real honor to be back at Lesley and to talk about this book that I never thought would get published and then it did. Thanks so much for having me. I look forward to hearing from readers. I'm always happy to chat with the folks about the book. Thank you.

    Amanda: You're welcome. Thank you.

    Announcer: Thank you for listening to Why We Write. For more information on Tracy and her book, I just Haven’t Met You Yet as well as our episode archive, visit our website: www.lesley.edu/podcast. You’ll find a link in our show notes.

    Next week we’re speaking with Jasmine Warga, author of Other Words For Home, a middle grade novel that is appearing on lots of year end "Best Of" lists. Subscribe to Why We Write in the podcast platform of your choice so that you never miss an episode. We’ll see you next week.