Given my recent blogs, why in the world would I write a book about the worst years of my life? Years in which my wonderful moments were sprinkled in between segments of loneliness, hostility and betrayal? Am I a fool or just an arrogant SOB who has nothing better to do than blather on about his rather ordinary life?
The answers to why write and publish Boy At The Window now are simple, so much so that they surprise me. I’m motivated by the reality that my adult life has been much more pleasant than my life was twenty or twenty-five years ago. Not only my education. My social life, my family life, my Christian life, my career choices have almost all been good experiences, successful endeavors, wonderful choices. But even with all of that, I’ve remained unhappy when I otherwise should be, continue to see myself as an underdog, and in want for more in my life. This despite all of the blessings that have befallen me since leaving Mount Vernon for college. I want to know what in my past has made it difficult for me to celebrate a milestone like finishing a degree, enjoy the work I do, to not worry about money even when all the bills are paid.
Boy At The Window has helped me figure out much of what is ailing me. I tend to see myself as an underdog, so I put myself in positions where I’m fighting against a system, whether it be academia, the nonprofit sector and my supervisors, or the materialism of modern-day Christianity. Even though I’m optimistic about my own ability to succeed in life, I tend to expect the other shoe to drop, as it did a week and a half after I was awarded a Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in April 1995. That’s when my mother and four younger siblings were rendered homeless by a fire at 616 East Lincoln in Mount Vernon. They began a nearly three-year-long odyssey of homelessness and semi-homelessness before moving back to 616. I’m almost always on the lookout for something that could threaten my future or that of my son and wife. Nuclear annihilation. Global warming. A high debt to income ratio.
I know, I know. I should’ve gotten over all of the misadventures I experienced growing up by now. And for the most part I have. Yet that doesn’t mean that there aren’t scars, that there aren’t things going on within me that I’m otherwise unconscious of. So many of us who do “make it” out of poverty and abuse “by the grace of God” refuse to look back to see how much of our lives continue to be determined by the forces that shaped our upbringing. In order to be truly free, which for me means to be free to be happy in every way possible, it means confronting the past in a way that allows it to stay in the past.
It also means realizing that there are other people like me out there, maybe a ten ot twelve or sixteen-year-old who doesn’t think much of himself (or herself) or his community or parents. Someone flying right under the radar at school but a person who has talents and abilities that they can’t quite imagine unleashing in a way to transform their life. Someone who believes that there’s more to life than what they’ve experienced but doesn’t exactly know how to get there. Someone willing to make sacrifices, to take risks to make their life worth living, if only someone or something were there to help them. I hope that Boy At The Window can reach them and teach them a way to trust without being gullible, to hope without worrying about loss, to be happy even when it might seem that there isn’t a reason to be so.