Marilyn Yocum ~ I Don’t Want This to Be My Story {Day 8 of 30}

“I come home from school, get one foot in the door and smell booze instead of dinner cooking. I am in second grade and my heart sinks. Mom is drinking again.”

It’s a writing assignment for a college English class.

“Write a scene,” the professor said. “Anything. Paint us a picture with words. You have a week.” I have hopes of writing about a garden or a field or a hillside.

Four days later I have nothing. My mind is blank, except for one thing, this scene from my childhood. It plays over and over in my head.

Another day passes. I keep sitting down to write, thinking I can push the memory aside long enough to compose at least a poor rough draft about a patch of zinnias or a brilliant autumn oak, but no. 

The paper remains blank. Not a single sentence. Not a single word. Only my name in the top right corner.

I don’t know what to do. Writing has always come easily to me, but now this. Less than two days to go and I have nothing. I’m carrying an “A” in the class, but know a missed assignment will drop it a half-grade.

Panic sets in.

I have no words.

I have no words.

But I do have words, just not the words I want.

I don’t want this to be my story.

Clock ticking, I decide to start with what I have – a ‘priming the pump’ tactic. The idea is to get words flowing – start with what’s on my mind and I’ll eventually get to the words I’m looking for.

I type as fast as I can and can barely keep up with the story coming out of me.

All of it true. All of it sad. All of it happening so long ago. 

I type through tears, and I never get around to writing about a flower or a tree.

I dread handing it in and hope, right up to the very last minute, that I will be able to write something else, that I will have something else to offer, but it doesn’t happen.

This is it. This is all I have. This is my offering.

I hand it in, sliding it under another student’s paper on the pile. I don’t want anyone to see it. This class is full of jocks and popular girls, all stylish and skinny – everyone always joking, fooling around. And then there’s me, in the corner seat, close to the door, shy and invisible, and wanting to stay that way.

I slide my offering in, let go of it and walk away.

Next class, the professor catches me in the hall beforehand and asks, “May I read your submission to the class?”

I say yes. Why? Why did I do that?  I want to die. I want to run.

He quiets the class and starts reading. He doesn’t say whose paper it is. I hear my own words, “…I get one foot in the door and smell booze….” and I hate them. I stare straight ahead at the front corner of the classroom, making no eye contact with anyone. Maybe nobody will know it’s mine. 

I know where he is on the page and precisely how much more I have to endure. He passes the halfway point and approaches the 2/3‘s mark. He’s almost to the bottom of page 2 and about to turn to page 3, the last page. Coming into the home stretch now. And then….

I hear a sniffle from the third row.

I hear a sympathetic moan in the back.

I hear someone weeping.

The professor finishes. A student passes a box of tissues.

“Why did this story mean something to you?” the professor asks the class.

Out come the answers. Some also have an alcoholic parent. Some have two. Other don’t, but have been scared for other reasons. And one guy, the biggest life-of-the-party-haha bully in the class, in tears, says, “Both my parents are drug users. Sometimes I feel I’ve spent my whole life scared.”

Who would have guessed?

And right then and there I learn something about the power of story…of my story…to help set others free.

And I learn something else, that I have been guilty of not esteeming my story, of working so hard to remove myself from that life that I have tried to remove that part of my life from my history. I have failed to see the gift it is, the opportunities is brings.

I have forgotten what God can do with ashes. Don’t sweep them under the rug.

The big guy asks, “Who wrote that?” All around him shake their heads. The professor looks my way, but waits for me to own it.

I raise my hand.

It’s about time.


Marilyn Yocum is an article writer and speaker, living in the Appalachian foothills of Ohio. Her work has appeared in Leadership Journal, Moody Magazine, Discipleship Journal, Upper Room and numerous other publications. She is currently working on two collections, one about growing up and sorting things out, the other about her current life crisis, which she can’t yet bring herself to mention.

She blogs about life, writing, recipes and other stuff at  You can find her on Twitter@MarilynYocum. She ceased Facebooking a year ago….purely for sanity’s sake. Her own.


I am honored to call Marilyn my friend and mentor.  I met her about a year and half ago as she shared her story for the youth gals at my church.  In July we served in Honduras together, and it was there that Marilyn and I drew closer as we shared about our lives, faith, and fear.

One evening we sat on bunks…me telling her my story and her imparting much wisdom. A week ago, the same via email.  Me struggling with writing and story, and Marilyn helping me to see it all differently, challenging me to think outside the box and see God’s hand in the story…in the process.

Marilyn is simply a gem.  I am blessed to know her.  For me, Marilyn is the woman of Titus 2, teaching me, making me better.

Thanks for sharing, Marilyn!


  1. AnnMarie Dixon says:

    Wow the power of a story. Marilyn your story have been freeing people from you were in middle school. Continue to share and own your story. Be blessed.

  2. I. Love. This. Oh, Marilyn. Thank you. I am so thankful for you. And your story. Because it bleeds grace and mercy. Thank you, Lord.

    • I, too, am thankful, Ali, for the chance to live long enough to see where the relationship with my mother went, how childhood fears and tears and prayers all wove into a grander story.

  3. Marilyn. Dear, wonderful, Marilyn. This is amazing. I burst into tears at the last line. Thank you, thank you for your courage, for your skill, for your willingness to go there – even if it was against your will!! This is remarkable, beautiful, blessed and a great, great gift. Thank you. (You must know by now that this is a primary theme of mine: tell your stories – don’t argue, don’t lecture, just tell your stories. And doors/hearts/lives will open and God will move right on in.)

    • “You must know by now that this is a primary theme of mine: tell your stories – don’t argue, don’t lecture, just tell your stories. And doors/hearts/lives will open and God will move right on in.”

      I don’t know that I ever saw your ‘primary theme’ stated like that. It’s a great one – a quotable quote! Thanks.

      • And hearts will open and God will move right in…LOVE THAT! I have been pondering lately what God uses to open hearts/how He does that work. Some hearts seem so closed. This was a great reminder:)

  4. I needed these words today – of all days… and Marilyn, if this is where you’re going to be here for a month, then so am I.

    Thank you Sarah, for making some room. Like I said, I’ll be here for a month, but I have a feeling I’ll stay… 🙂

  5. Marilyn your story and your willingness to share it have meant so much to me…thank you!

    • Great to see you here, Julie! I’ll be eager to hear what other stories Sarah has here this month resonate for you, which one(s) real hit you dead center.

  6. I am in tears. So many times I think my story isn’t worth telling and no one wants to hear it. I’m not eloquent with words by any means. But I cling to the fact that I know God told me to tell it. And if it helps one person, it’s worth telling. Thank you for sharing & for helping me see this in a new light.

    • “So many times I think my story isn’t worth telling and no one wants to hear it. I’m not eloquent with words by any means.”

      Ruth, these thoughts are shared by all of us. Believe me. I don’t have a day go by that I’m not thinking, at some point, what a waste of breath my story is, how poorly I tell it and that nobody wants to hear. This is a common thing for all writers and speakers……and artists. Also parents, leaders, nurturers of every kind, shepherds, etc….

      I encourage you to push past it, steward your story well, offer it up where opportunity is given….then leave the outcomes to God. You just never know who needs to hear it….or why. And waiting for those assurances leaves others in the dark.

  7. I am humbled by your comments, friends. And honored to have been asked by Sarah to contribute to this important series. Thus far I’ve read 9 stories and am looking forward to every single one yet to come.

  8. Thanks Marilyn, and Sarah, for sharing this story.
    I would like to share it on facebook, and my blog if that is OK.

  9. Your writing is so wonderful and vivid; it stirs me all up! I look forward to following your gift via your blog. Thank you for sharing and believing that each story has wings.

  10. I am in tears. Wow… this really spoke to me. Thank you. I’m glad you had the courage to write your story.

  11. Thank you for this. I found this today when I googled “steward your story”, wanting to find models of how to do that, to bring God glory through my story. What a powerful model. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Kristi – I LOVE Marilyn’s words. So helpful to us all as we try to share our stories well and for His glory:)


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