“A professional politician is a professionally dishonorable man. In order to get anywhere near high office he has to make so many compromises and submit to so many humiliations that he becomes indistinguishable from a street walker.”
The Japanese have a custom that allows employees to get drunk with their bosses and tell them off without threat of reprisal. I’m not Japanese and I no longer drink alcohol, so I’ll use my birthday as a fair excuse for some straight talk. With fair warning I conjecture that most of you won’t be used to this.
I just handed in the final draft of a manuscript for what will be my first published book. It is comprised of autobiographical material that I wrote under a pseudonym on the blog site Xanga between 2006 and 2008. These nearly anonymous posts were followed by a mere handful of people, and contained extremely candid information of a most personal nature.
In these blog entries I wrote about the type of stuff that most people never discuss, but most especially never reveal to strangers about themselves. It was an emotionally raw journal that chronicled a near-psychotic collapse that occurred in the middle of the four toughest struggles a person can undergo, all of which happened at the same time: the collapse of a marriage, a move across country, the death of a loved one, and a medical misdiagnosis.
I question my own mental health and speak unexpurgated about embarrassing sexual encounters, activities of compromised morality and legality, and tell the kinds of truth that can most definitely prevent me from ever attaining high or even medium public office. I pull no punches and save my worst criticisms for myself. I detail a time of such pain and despair that it required the creation of an alter-ego to shoulder the blame for activities that most people would flat-out deny, never mind promote via a published chapbook. Similarities to actual persons both living and dead are not only intentional, they are unavoidable.
But to say that these tales are unedited would be a gross misappropriation of the truth.
While all the events detailed in The Panik Diaries (coming in early 2011 from New Texture Books) are true, they are told from a single source via two perspectives, and since my writing has a point of view, it is constricted by the accuracy of my memory and the relativity of different events as they occurred over time. I have in some cases left out the names of people to whom I would wish to lend a degree of culpable anonymity. Even so, I know that those people when they read this (if they ever read it) may be hurt by what I’ve written. It has been a struggle to remain truth-faithful and yet fair to those who were my accomplices (some willing, some unwitting) over the course of a particularly difficult time in my life. As it is a rather short account, I have left out thousands of details and incidents that did not serve to carry further my chosen narrative. While these are invariably omissions, I do not consider their absences sins.
Now that this project is a reality I worry.
I worry about the possibility that certain people’s perceptions of me may change in ways that cannot be rectified to my satisfaction. I wonder if sharing my unique experiences will perform a service for others, and while I’d certainly like to think so, I also shudder to think that others will consider specific acts of debauchery to be blanket braggadocio –when it should be perfectly evident that I harbor no pride in recalling them.
Mostly I worry about hurting people’s feelings.
This book isn’t about other people’s faults or flaws. It’s about mine. I hope that’s clear, and having been given the chance to test a sample of these memoirs in front of a live audience, I can attest that the material went over well. If it hadn’t I wouldn’t have agreed to let them be published. A wise man once said that a writer writes the truth, and in this world one of the only things that can’t be taken away is integrity. Integrity can only be given away; sacrificed. I suppose at the end of the day I’ll at least have that, and if all else goes poorly, I wonder if that alone will be enough.
There are countless millions of books written about adolescence, about coming of age, about growing up and becoming an adult, about finding true love and settling down and about growing old. There are precious few books of note written about that grey area between adulthood and dying. There are fewer still about balancing responsibility and expectation as a grown man without the trappings of marriage or the greater good. What about the common good? Is that not meritorious on its own?
If I’m adding to the noise, I apologize. In truth you’ve only partly me to blame, as it had never occurred to me to publish these entries until Wyatt Doyle urged me to let him re-post some of them on the New Texture blog. They are now part of a tradition that includes fellow writers Josh Alan Friedman and Chris D. I’m thrilled to be a part of this collective, and I stand by the value of my experiences. Above all else, I’m happy to be alive, I’m lucky to have experienced love, and I’m hopeful that my intent is not misinterpreted, for mine is a tale of survival; if the telling of that tale should negate the success of the struggle so chronicled, all will have been for naught.