‘Where Are They Now?’ True Story Interview Updates!

where are they now

Does it sound pompous and self-important to say that I think the True Story interview series is the most important “work” that I do?

Well, too bad. I just said it and that’s how I feel. 

I put that “work” in quotes because all I really do is write up the questions that we’re all dying to ask and then post the answers on this blog. You guys are the ones who offer to share your stories. You’re the ones who make this a safe space to share stories. I just copy and paste things out of emails and into WordPress!

The series was born out of my own fascination with, well, everyone ever. I’m Pollyanna-ishly convinced that the world would be a better, kinder place if we heard people’s stories and shared our own. We’d realize that none of us are that different and none of us are alone. I can’t tell you how many time I’ve saddled my high horse and prepared for the climb, only to read someone’s interview and think “I can totally see where she’s coming from.”

In honor of publishing my 300th (!!!) True Story interview, I wanted to catch up with some of our most intriguing, most highly trafficked, most commented-on interviewees. I think you’re going to love this!

Then: True Story: I waited till marriage to have sex
Now: I’m gay

What have I been up to since my interview? Much of the same: teaching and yoga-ing. But…more than that!

I came out as queer two years ago! Whaaaa? It shocked many people I knew (but was equally un-shocking for some!), particularly since my ex-husband was also struggling with his sexuality, as I shared in the interview. For me, it wasn’t a total surprise — I’d had a few sexual experiences with gals but again, due to my super religious upbringing, had always written them off as not important. But, I met someone, we fell in love, the sex was amazing, etc. It was enough to make me want to REALLY examine how I felt, and uncover a deeper layer of my sexuality.

In therapy, talking it out, journaling, solitude, I finally realized that yes, I am queer (basically, NOT heterosexual). I came out to my friends first, and my very religious family second, and while it’s still difficult and a hard topic for them, I feel very comfortable with who I am, maybe for the first time. I feel free because something I’d kept secret for SO long is now out on the table. That said, it has also deepened my already-strong feelings that the church needs to do a better job of addressing sexuality without shame in the church. I spent so many years feeling bad about my sexuality, and only now as a 32-year-old woman, do I feel even remotely comfortable claiming it.

Then: True Story: My husband cheated. I stayed + we worked through it
Now: We’re still together

Our culture doesn’t understand affairs. There’s a narrative that so many of us follow, even subconsciously, that assumes that men cheat because they’re bored or their wives let themselves go or they’re simply cads. We think there’s one acceptable response to the discovery of infidelity – divorce. We see little evidence of the emotional devastation wrought by cheating. Until it happens to us.

In the time since I contributed my story, women have continued to find my Betrayed Wives Club site, to share their pain and discover the power that comes with insight and the choice to respond to their partner’s affair in the way that feels right for them. My marriage remains strong, in large part thanks to the skills my husband and I gained in healing from his infidelity. I’m where I want to be – right beside him – and grateful to have found the strength to write my own script about cheating.

living with parents

Then: True Story: I’m 31 + living with my parents
Now: I moved out

In July this year, I found an apartment about 10 minutes away from work. It’s a one bedroom apartment and just my dog and I live there. It’s taken a little time, but it’s starting to feel like home. I’m now about an hour away from my parents, who I manage to see on some weekends and special occasions. They are great doggie-sitters when I travel!

As far as the relationship goes….I’m still with the same guy and it’s going very well! When I moved into my apartment, he bought a house in his area. So we have our own spaces that we go back and forth between. It’s nice because we are both close to downtown areas, so we have fun being social on the weekends wherever we are!

quinoa todler

Then: True Story: I inadvertently created a Pinterest phenomenon
Now: I’ve published a book based on my Pinterest board

Quinoa and my Pinterest board certainly changed my life. I wrote a book (a lifelong dream), and many new writing opportunities have come about since then. I’ve been able to share my personal essays on Huffington Post, and Quinoa is now the imaginary spokes-toddler for SoCozy!

The book also led to an opportunity to teach a creative writing course at the University of Delaware this spring. I still update the board every now and then, though it can be hard to find time. And when I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my three non-imaginary favorite people: my husband and two (averagely dressed) sons.

boyfriend quadriplegic

Then: True Story: My boyfriend is quadriplegic
Now: We broke up (but not because he’s quadriplegic)

I am currently living in Chicago, IL teaching 8th grade ELA in the city. I am no longer dating Steven, for reasons that had nothing to do with his disability. I’ve been living with my new boyfriend and dog in the suburbs for the last year and am still hiking, yoga-ing, and loving life.

I still get emails frequently from people who read my article who have said it helped them, and I love that! Disability awareness is something that our society desperately needs; we need to be educated and understanding. I love hearing from people going through similar situations that I did and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to share my story with all of your readers.

Then: True Story: I joined Ashley Madison + now I’m sleeping with 4 married guys
Now: I quit Ashley Madison because what I want changed

It’s been almost three years since I joined Ashley Madison and started several affairs.  All of them are pretty much over by now – one got far too clingy, one was never able to make our scheduled visits and one…I’m not sure what happened with that one!  I kept seeing the dominant guy until about a year ago until I started a (fairly short-lived) relationship, now we touch base every now and again but I haven’t seen him since the summer.

I don’t think my feelings about cheating in general have changed at all, but what I’ve wanted from my sexual encounters has.  When I first joined Ashley Madison, I was looking for sexual experiences that didn’t involve emotions because I had become so tired of putting myself out there and getting hurt.

Now my feelings have changed and it feels worse for me to be with someone I know doesn’t really care about me.  The guys I was with were all really good people trying to find fulfillment, and we’re all somewhat in contact to this day.  I’m still single and I don’t regret my experiences at all, it was something that I needed at that time in my life. I’m happy to report that there was never any fallout, to the best of my knowledge no one’s spouses found out, and no one in my life knows about what I did.

I didn’t have a huge reaction to the data leak – I knew that I had used fake name/anonymous email address/no credit card, but it was hard to keep a straight face with everyone talking about it!

Then: True Story: I’m 23 + never been kissed
Now: I’m still kiss-less

I am now 28 and my love life/relationship history hasn’t changed at all since the last interview and I mind even less than I did when I was 23. I’ve certainly been romantically interested in people, and have pursued relationships since than, but nothing has ever eventuated, and honestly… This is a rare occurrence because I am too damn busy living a super-rad life.

Since the age of 23 I’ve traveled through over 30 countries and lived in 3. I currently have TWO amazing careers that I love and work at side by side (theater and the book industry). I have tons of really great friends, and I am generally too busy eating up life by the spoonful to think about it much!

Then: True Story: I was a stripper
Now: I’m self-employed

After graduating from college, I worked at a large company for a couple years… but it bored me. I left that position and started my own business. I love being self-employed! I still experience a great deal of the creative freedom and excitement that I felt working in strip clubs, except now… I am fully clothed! I am also in a beautiful long term relationship. Life is excellent. :)My relationship with my parents is stronger than ever. I don’t think they’ll ever be “happy” that I spent a few years working as a stripper – but it’s definitely something we can all joke and laugh about now!
Interesting anecdote: remember that “mega-douchebag” strip club owner that I mentioned in my interview? Turns out, I wasn’t the only dancer who detested him. Lots of dancers were angry at him because he refused to let them take breaks during their shifts at work, refused to let them take sick days, and so on. Ultimately, he got taken to court in a big class action lawsuit. The dancers won the case! I don’t know the exact details of what happened – I wasn’t personally involved – but after the settlement, I got contacted by a law firm and they sent me a check for my share of the settlement, as a former employee. It was several thousand dollars! I guess that club owner got his karma-slap in the face, finally…
Looking back on that time in my life – when I worked in the clubs – I feel a sense of nostalgia. It was seriously fun, sexy, and surreal! I don’t regret any of it – other than the fact that it frightened and confused my parents. But we’ve all moved past that, now.
I know that some women have truly horrendous experiences working in the stripping industry, and my heart breaks for them. But other women, like myself, do not. There are lots of different types of clubs, different types of dancers, and many different storylines. Not all stripper-stories have unhappy beginnings – or unhappy endings.

Then: True Story: I’m dating a (significantly) older man
Now: We’re still going strong

I think it’s been about 5 or 6 years since my interview and a lot has happened in my relationship during that time! The short version is: we’re still together and doing better than ever, but it did take a lot of ups and downs to get here. In general, it has been the same as with any relationship – hard times come along, challenge you, and either you work together to adapt through them or you go your separate ways.

To be honest, we did take time apart for about 4 months a year ago, which was my decision. I had to really sit with whether I wanted to move away for my career, and whether I wanted to have kids. I’m grateful I took that time to get grounded, or else I would have always wondered if I had sacrificed too much of myself for our relationship. There are still times when I find the age difference awkward (like every family event?), but it’s part of what I have accepted when I truly chose to be with him and I’m grateful for him every day.

family rural Alaska

Then: True Story: I’m raising my family in rural Alaska
Now:  The kids and I moved to Washington + my husband will follow this summer

While my husband is still teaching in rural Alaska in the same village he started in, our circumstances have changed a bit.  After miscarrying twice last year, we decided that if I got pregnant again, the children and I would stay with family in Washington state, near medical care.
Not everything about life in rural Alaska is as glamorous as it seems on television. It takes two flights to get to medical care, and in an emergency it can take longer than five hours for medivac to reach our village.  Being so isolated meant I had to go through my D&C post-miscarriage alone in Anchorage while my husband was 400 miles away at home with our three boys.  It was heart wrenching.
That said, being apart this year hasn’t been easy either.  The twins are now seven, and little brother is four, and they miss their daddy!  I just had a baby girl and I desperately miss my partner and co-parent.  I know this was the right choice health-wise, but it hasn’t been easy, and part of me really wishes there was just a hospital in our village!
As I predicted in my original interview, our family needs have changed, and while we would like to stay in Alaska, we need to find somewhere on the road system with a grocery store & a hospital nearby.  We are hopeful that with five years teaching experience, plus that masters degree he earned two years back, Josh will be able to find something to better suit our growing family’s needs.
Meanwhile, I am forever grateful for the time we spent rural Alaska because it allowed me to be the stay-at-home mom I’d always dreamed of being, and allowed my husband to follow his dream of teaching to support our family.
If you are interested in teaching in rural Alaska, I’d suggest you check out Alaska Teacher Placement for information on upcoming job fairs, openings and even a link to teacher blogs from Alaska.

Then: True Story: I’m a sex worker
Now: I’m a writer

Wow, it’s been 4 years since I wrote that piece! A lot has changed for me. I’m no longer escorting and am currently producing porn in my free time instead. I became a professional writer, which is my primary source of income – same amount of hustling but less stigma.

I’m in love, I have a cozy apartment with my two cats, and I live in the Bay full time. Things have changed, for sure, but they’ve changed overwhelmingly for the better, even when it’s been rough. I still love sex work, and I’m glad I did/do it, but I’m also glad to be in relationships now that can better hold space for those experiences, the good and the bad.

graduated at 60

Then: True Story: I went back to university at 51
Now: I was just accepted into a doctorate program

It is now over ten years since I went back to university as a mature age student. The Masters at Oxford is complete and I have retired to a lakeside village north of Sydney.

I see myself quite differently now – not as someone who squandered opportunities when young, but as someone who has grasped opportunities in middle age. I am more of a risk-taker, having found that feeling the fear but still stepping out has paid off.

A university nearby has just accepted my application to do a doctorate, and I am currently pondering whether to study for a few more years or to hang up my gloves and take a rest!

moved family to scotland

Then: I moved my family of 6 from Arkansas to Scotland
Now: We’ve finished our time in Scotland + are plotting our next move

Three years ago we were preparing to move to Scotland, and now we are coming to the end of our third and final year. I can’t believe how fast it’s gone, and how much has changed in our family during our time here. My husband is on track to finish his PhD this summer, and we are exploring where we will move when he finishes. He is applying to jobs both in the States and abroad, and since I can do my copywriting work from anywhere, I’m fairly open to whatever possibilities come his way.

Our oldest son graduated and moved back to the States. Our daughter will graduate this year and has decided that she wants to stay in Scotland for university. Our younger two boys are bracing themselves for another move. I tell myself it will be easier this go around, but whether we return to schools in Arkansas or begin afresh in a new city, they will be the “new kids” again.

haven't talke to my father

Then: I haven’t talked to my dad in 4 years
Now: We still don’t speak – and that’s fine!

Since my interview I haven’t had any contact with my father and he hasn’t attempted to contact me since I moved to the UK. I sometimes hear about him from my mum but it’s been a while.

I am now permanently living in the UK and graduated with Merit in the summer of 2014. I mostly teach acting and singing and there might be a short film in my near future. On top of all of that I live with my wonderful boyfriend of nearly two years. He’s kind and respectful and my ultimate partner in crime. Plus: who wouldn’t love a ginger-bearded Welshman?

And this doesn’t really count as a True Story, but do you remember my friend Dabi? You guys helped raise funds for him to attend English school so he could better advocate for his hill tribe with international NGOs? He’s now a successful elected official, representing his region and Ahka people! And he got married!

If you’re new to this series and you want a taste of the best, most intriguing interviews, I put them all into a free ebook for you. Great reading for the weekend or beach!

As always, thanks so much for making this series and Yes & Yes part of your day. It means so, so much to me! If you have an interesting story to share, my inbox is always open and interviews always have the option to be anonymous. You can always reach me at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org.

photo credit: anna dziubinska // cc

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  1. scar

    “I’m Pollyanna-ishly convinced that the world would be a better, kinder place if we heard people’s stories and shared our own.” – couldn’t agree more 🙂

  2. C

    Yay! So glad you did updates, they were excellent. Looking forward to reading the e-book. Thanks for the stories!

  3. Rachael

    OMG DABI!! Congratulations to him! Thanks for the updates, Sarah! <3

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I know, right?! I’m so excited for himmmm!! <3

  4. Rachelia Giardino

    Wow, this was so fascinating! I loved catching up with the folks you’ve interviewed over the years to see how their journeys continued. Ahh, and thank you for the update on Dabi (BEAUTIFUL wedding photos, holy moly!!) – that’s so amazing!

  5. Amanda

    I was so excited when I opened my reader and saw you had posted True Story updates! I always wonder where everyone ends up. I agree that this is important work; peoples’ stories are why I love blogs!

    You actually interviewed me a couple years ago: “I Moved Halfway Around the World and Met the Man I Want to Marry.” I’ve thought about sending you an update. We got married last year! We had a Chinese ceremony and another in Canada in the summer. You can read about them here: http://www.sunshineandwhimsy.net/2015/04/our-chinese-wedding.html and here: http://www.sunshineandwhimsy.net/2015/09/wedding-recap-reception.html

  6. Maria

    This might be one of my favorite posts of yours ever! I loved catching up with your interviewees. Thanks for this!


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