Bright Before Sunrise: One Night that Changed My Life

"One night can change how you see the world.
One night can change how you see yourself."

In celebration of Tiffany Schmidt's fabulous new book BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE, I was asked to contribute a story of one night that changed my life. Most of my stories take place in the day--it's easy to think of a DAY that changed my life. But night? My memory popped straight back to this one.
You can see all the One Night stories on the BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE Tumblr.

As a teen, and through into college, I didn't have a lot of confidence. Probably many of you can relate to that. I was bullied in grammar school and high school, and had a messy family life, and it carried over. I kept to myself—it was safer. Way less painful to never let anybody in than to try and then get slammed down. So I lived in a bubble of my own, drifting through the world, but not really happy with myself.
I still can't quite believe I had enough confidence to apply for a year-long study abroad program in England, much less get through all the interviews and meetings, but I did. My junior year of college I set off for the University of Sussex, to see how I would do in the wider world. The first six months were tough. Living abroad requires a certain amount of sociability, the courage to step outside your comfort zone. At first I didn't do that. I hung out with other Californians, in a very small group, for the most part. I had fun, but I didn't change. I was still in the safe bubble, just a little farther away from home.
Then one night, I met J.J.…still an American, but from New Hampshire. And her friends, who were actually British and Scottish. We sat on the ground at a party, drinking Newkie Brown ale, and talked. 

And clicked. I talked about myself. I let someone in, for the first time in ages, let someone see a glimpse of the real me.

And then we did a road trip east, all of us piled into a little creaky car. I don't even remember what we did at first—all I remember is the feeling, the miraculous feeling of connecting to people and being accepted. Laughing with the jokes. Being part of the group.

We ended up at the seawall, at Eastbourne, sometime in the wee hours. I don't know why. J.J. and I climbed over the wall, onto the round English rocks. The waves crashed at our feet, the spray washing over us, the roar deafening. We shouted, together, into the waves. I shouted all my frustrations, my loneliness, my happiness right at that moment.

And something snapped in me, let go. Nothing dramatic changed, outwardly. I had a wider group of friends from then on, I involved myself more, and when it came time to go home I really wanted to stay. But inside, I was different. From that night I had a renewed confidence in myself, and in friendships, in people. That there were people like me out there—I just had to find them. That I could be myself. That I could shout myself into the ocean, into the world.

Jonah and Brighton are about to have the most awkwardly awful night of their lives. For Jonah, every aspect of his new life reminds him of what he has had to give up. All he wants is to be left alone. Brighton is popular, pretty, and always there to help anyone . . . but has no idea of what she wants for herself. Her seemingly perfect life is marred only by Jonah, the one person who won't give her the time of day, but also makes her feel, well, something. So when they are repeatedly thrown together over the course of one night, anything can—and does—happen. Told in alternating chapters, this poignant, beautiful novel's energy and tension, amidst the humor and romance, builds to a new beginning of self-acceptance and hope.

About Tiffany Schmidt:
TIFFANY SCHMIDT lives in Pennsylvania with her saintly husband, impish twin boys, and a pair of mischievous puggles. And while she thinks sunrises are quite beautiful, she'd rather sleep through them. Send Me a Sign was her debut novel. Find out more about Tiffany and her books by following her on Twitter @TiffanySchmidt or visiting