Ann Curry Breaks Her Silence Five Years After Leaving 'Today'

In wake of the news that her former Today show co-host Matt Lauer is accused of sexual misconduct by several show staffers, Ann Curry has finally broken her silence five years after leaving.

Speaking exclusively to PEOPLE, Curry talked about leaving and how "it hurt like hell."

"It hurt so much, but I learned a lot about myself. I can say I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve been honest and true. I’ve tried to stay pure. I’ve tried to not respond in a knee-jerk manner, and I’ve stayed very close to who I am. So it hurt, but I’m also proud of myself," she added.

Curry spent less than a year on Today, eventually getting fired. She said at the time, "I’m sorry I couldn’t carry the ball over the finish line, but, man, I did try!"

Rumors began circulating that Lauer was the reason she was let go, and with the new reports of him being accused of misusing his position for sexual purposes, many believe this is a reckoning for what happened with Curry. She does not see it that way, however.

I’m not going to say it wasn’t hard,” Curry says of how she has coped with lingering resentment. “But I had to let go. And I learned that when you not only let go but open your arms wide and learn the lessons that an experience — no matter how bad — can teach you, that’s when you rise.”

“I can say today I’m stronger now,” Curry added. “I’m smarter. I’m happier, as happy as I’ve ever been. And my compassion has only grown. When you go through the pain and learn the lessons, you will be changed for the better.”

The 61-year-old mother of two also said, "Experience has taught me, as a journalist, the No. 1 thing you have to be is humble. It’s not about you."

Curry has remained fairly low-key since her 2012 exit from Today, but is returning to TV this year.

On Jan. 23 Curry will kick off We’ll Meet Again, a brand new six-part docuseries airing on PBS.

“I’ve always thought of journalism as a service profession. I’m in it to give, not to get. This show lets me explore people’s beautiful wishes to reconnect with the people who helped them survive,” Curry said of the series.

“The power we have to do good and to have compassion lives deep within us all, and I believe it’s something we need to be reminded of,” she added. “There are times we forget it exists, and we may be living in one of those times right now. But the capacity for good is still there. It exists, and it will rise again.”