Welcome Back, Monica: An Open Letter to Monica Lewinsky

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/25/14)

Dear Monica-

I hadn’t realized you had disappeared somewhat from the public eye until yesterday (I guess that’s how “disappearing from the public eye” works). I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook and came upon a video a friend had shared from Upworthy – “Monica Lewinsky Gives Her First Public Speech in 16 Years And Says Exactly What Needs To Be Said“. Based on my friend’s comment, which amounted to, “Hey, we’ve all made crappy decisions, let’s have some compassion”, I decided to have a look.

Compassion has been a theme in my life lately. The past couple of years have thrown some pretty awful things my way, including being publicly maligned on social media – though on a much smaller scale than what you’ve had to deal with – and I’ve discovered that the only way to really cope is to actively practice compassion. It is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges to embrace, but one that also reaps the highest rewards.

In watching the video of your speech at the Forbes Under 30 Summit, I noticed that I could not stop smiling. It seems like a strange reaction, but I was delighted by your honesty, your willingness to accept responsibility for the poor choices of your youth, and your commitment to giving purpose to your past.

Hell, I’ve made poor choices. I made ALOT of poor choices in my early twenties. Thankfully, through life experience, I’m making far fewer poor choices now that I’m heading into my forties. I’ve suffered the consequences from those bad choices, learned something, and have been able to grow and put them behind me. Due to the global publicity of your choices, you have not been so lucky. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to have to revisit choices I made 16 years ago every day.

I remember in the late 90s and early 2000s joining in on the “let’s bash Monica Lewinsky” bandwagon. I didn’t think of you as a real person then, you were simply a character in a political theater piece that seemed to have very little to do with my reality. Frankly, I’m embarrassed by that now. You are a person – a smart, strong, capable, ambitious, generous and warm-heated person at that. I’m sorry that I ever let you become something other than that in my mind. You are a person that deserves to have a happy and productive life. Compassion is teaching me that we all do, and that I need to take more care in how I perceive people in the media. No story is black and white, and it is important to remember that there is always a real person, with real feelings, behind every story – a person whose truth may be drastically different from the story that is being spun by the media.

There are always going to be trolls and cyber-bullies. I read some nasty things in reaction to your recent Vanity Fair article as well as your Forbes speech. None of us will ever be free of those who lack compassion, who refuse to give anyone a second chance, who refuse to take the high road, who are incapable of having empathy for someone’s imperfect humanity. But I hope that you will weather the naysayers so that you may find your purpose.

Our world needs more women who can rise out of shame, more women who are educated, well-spoken, and compassionate, who can provide a voice for those who do not have the strength to speak for themselves, who lack the courage to face humiliation with their heads held high.

I’d like to live in a world where Monica Lewinsky and Hillary Clinton can co-exist. I don’t think having respect and compassion for one should negate that for the other. I believe I can hold each in high esteem without being contradictory. I hope more and more people come to that conclusion as well. It would be a damn shame for the world to lose out on the gifts you have to give. The time is right for your new beginning, and I am excited to think about the ways in which you will have a positive impact on our world.

Welcome back, Monica. I, for one, am really glad you are here.

Amy Clites