What's Next For Monica Lewinsky
05/18/2014 AT 04:30 PM EDT
"It's very important for her to do something with what she's been through," says a close friend. "She's really happy it sparked a good conversation about shame and public humiliation on the Internet. Much different than in the past."
It was that public shaming after the affair was discovered in 1998, that kept her from speaking out for years.
But turning 40 last July proved to be a turning point for Lewinsky, who'd been living quietly in Los Angeles since receiving her Masters in Social Psychology at the London School of Economics in 2006.
"It was a life changer" says her close friend. "She realized it was important for her to do something with what she had been through."
In the years since the scandal, Lewsinky writes in Vanity Fair that she became a scapegoat "in order to protect [the President's] position. While she struggled to carve out a new life, few knew that she spent time volunteering (with children's charities) and taking classes in writing and psychology.
"She's a normal person," says her friend. "That's what people forget."
Now says a source who knows her: "She desperately wants to redefine herself."
With Hillary Clinton as the likely Democratic nominee in the 2016 presidential election, several friends say Lewinsky's decision wasn't a political one.
"She was always waiting for the right time," says her close friend. "Not wanting to affect someone else's future. And she realized she can't keep putting her life on hold. And she shouldn't have to."
Adds a second friend, "The Clintons were never going to go into a shell. They were always going to be omnipresent."
Still, it was the pain of another young man that laid the ground work for her eventual decision.
The 2010 suicide of Tyler Clementi after he was publicly humiliated for kissing another man, also played a large role. While she in no way equates her story with his, it spurred her to do something meaningful with her life. Now her goal, friends say, is to become involved with efforts on behalf of victims of online humiliation and harassment and to speak on this topic in more public forums.
"She has an opportunity to help people," says her close friend. "She's ready to do more."
For more on Monica Lewsinky, pick up this week's issue, on newsstands now