Axelle/Bauer-griffin/filmmagic Monica Lewinsky
For many years, Monica Lewinsky's public life was largely defined by one of the most notorious relationships in American history.
But the 48-year-old advocate, speaker and producer fought back to reclaim her story as well as her personal life.
"I kinda feel if anybody has earned a right to have their romantic life private, it's me," Lewinsky tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "Those relationships are very precious to me, even the one or two who turned out to be putzes. But I've learned a lot."
"I do date. I'm not married yet," she says. "I don't know if that will happen or not, and I'm more okay with that than I used to be."
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While Lewinsky's affair with former President Bill Clinton, when she was a 20-something White House intern, is again in the public sphere thanks to a new TV series she produced, her personal life is not.
Instead, she's focusing on herself — and the story she has to tell.
Lewinsky is a producer on FX's Impeachment: American Crime Story, which details Clinton's scandals through the eyes of the women affected by them, including her.
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The series, which debuted Tuesday, comes 23 years after her affair with Clinton came to light via private conversations she had with then co-worker and friend Linda Tripp, who secretly recorded their talks and eventually handed them off to independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who was investigating the president.
The president was impeached by the House of Representatives. The Senate, however, acquitted him, and Tripp received immunity.
Lewinsky, meanwhile, faced intense public scrutiny.
"I turned 48 last month, and it was bizarre to realize I had now marked half my life as a public person," she tells PEOPLE. "My life was defined by [the scandal] for a very long time and still is in some ways. But I think it's diminishing."
Greg Gorman Monica Lewinsky
For a decade, starting in the mid-2000s, Lewinsky retreated from the spotlight. She earned a master's in social psychology from the London School of Economics. With time, she eventually began to reclaim her story. She gave talks about public shaming and became an anti bullying activist.
Lewinsky says now that there's still a "mental tape" in her mind, a highlight reel of some of the most traumatic moments she experienced during the Clinton scandal — the names she was called by comedians, the cartoons that ridiculed her weight.
"I already had self-esteem issues, and being the object of ridicule didn't help. Therapy helps," she says, adding: "I was joking recently, 'I don't really have a glam squad, I have a mental health squad.' "
Lewinsky says that having a core group of friends and family has been an integral part of her journey, too.
"Laughter and friends get you through," she says. "My connections to friends and family are what's most important to me. People who can make me laugh are golden."
That includes her mom, Marcia Lewis Straus, who Lewinsky says helped her "the most" after the Clinton affair.
"Her ability to say, 'It will get better. You'll be able to go outside one day and not wear a hat. You'll be able to walk down the street one day,' — she was right," Lewinsky says.
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 06: Monica Lewinsky attends the Forbes Under 30 Summit at Pennsylvania Convention Center on October 6, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images) Monica Lewinsky
In addition to Impeachment, Lewinsky has other projects on her plate: She executive produced 15 Minutes of Shame, a forthcoming HBO Max documentary.
"You never know how history will view you. I hope to become a smaller and smaller footnote who's known more for her accomplishments [than scandal]," she tells PEOPLE.
Lewinsky continues: "The larger goal is how to move the conversation forward, a collective shift around the kind of blame that was put on a young person. And so if part of that footnote is that I am the last young person [who has] a presidential scandal sit on her shoulders, that's okay. Then I feel like I've accomplished something."