Among the things that are overdue in my life, this here blog ranks highly. For mostly cathartic reasons, I’ve needed a home to share my thoughts and stories.
What are those thoughts and stories, and why might you be interested to come back and read them?
It’s my biggest hope for anyone reading to find the telling of my life relatable, but a couple notches more honestly than they would have told it. I may have some aspects to my story that are more unique, such as growing up overseas and working jobs that have entangled my life with those of famous people, but the majority of it is all too common. I’ve suffered failed relationships, the death of loved ones, and a childhood and adolescence spent with an alcoholic, abusive father. Telling these tales has become a sense of duty to me—for myself, and because I think it’ll help others.
If you know me from the various work I’ve done in skepticism, you probably have a good idea of my perspectives on the world. I strongly support human rights, which is silly to have to state in a way that implies anyone is not. I lean heavily toward determinism on the free will scale, and I’m certain I’ve become a more compassionate and forgiving person since developing this stance. I find environmentalism and climate change our most pressing issues, and with regard to that, I support science-based government policies. I’m comfortable asking questions and being questioned. If you can make me uncomfortable, even better. Being challenged helps me define truth in what’s objective, and morality in what’s subjective—it’s how I grow as a thinker.
However, that only takes one as far as the foyer in the house that is me. Before I—basically by accident—started meddling in and writing about issues that are antithetical to a progressive society, I was a visual artist who worked in a used bookstore. I wouldn’t necessarily say I kept my views to myself then, but I didn’t have a platform. For years I shelved books by day and went home to work on my tiny illustrations, which I sold in an East Nashville art gallery and occasionally displayed at cafes around town. My life has always felt as though it were on the verge of something, but I didn’t have enough focus on a singular aspect to make a breakthrough into whatever that “something” was. At the time, I figured it was art related.
I now suspect those anticipated breakthroughs were a mirage. It’s part of the human condition never to be satiated and to journey perpetually toward happiness, as if it’s a piece of fruit dangling just out of reach. (That right there is an entire blog post in itself, so I’ll bookmark that thought.)
If you knew my story word for word, you may feel differently about me. You may like me more or less; that’s not my concern. What I’m concerned with, the older I get, is living life as authentically as possible, which includes unveiling my origin story.
You may have been piqued by something I said above about having an abusive father. With regard to that aspect of my life, I have him to thank for a lot of who I am, but not in the way he’d hope. I tend to refer to him in the past tense—“he was”—but that’s because I haven’t spoken with him in six years and I have a sense that he no longer exists. Unfortunately, he does. He is still a monster, as I have no reason to believe otherwise. He is a narcissist, and I can trace his disorder back through my childhood, long before I knew there was a label, or even that he was anything other than ordinary. He is also an alcoholic, racist, sexist, physically violent, ill-willed, and undeservedly prideful. Worse than that, he is a sexual predator—an incestuous pedophile, to be specific.
The reason I say he has made me who I am, and not to his delight, is because I’ve groomed myself to reject any personality traits of his that surface in me. I started this as early as my teens, when I felt a visceral swirling at his use of the “N” word. I started to pick up on the notion that my father wasn’t the infallible man I was raised to see him as. He was grotesque, ignorant, he lacked compassion, and he was unwilling to learn and be better.
For the better part of my 20s, his narcissism and foul behavior were completely transparent to me, though I didn’t see the use in challenging him. We lived two states apart, had the occasional cordial visit, and I maintained a placeholder of suspicion that I didn’t yet know the worst of him. By the end of my 20s, and I mean literally the last week of being 29, I reconnected with my older sister who had been physically and emotionally distant from me for over a decade. She and my cousin brought to my attention the string that tied together every uncomfortable memory I had of my father being vaguely perverted—a history of sexual abuse he committed against them as young women. No one clued me in on the details because of the unfortunate cliché “I didn’t think you’d believe me.”
I didn’t have to “believe” them—it made perfect sense. I had my own set of memories as a bystander to their sexual abuse.
I was furious, and immediately initiated a confrontation with our father. The next several days were explosive with denial, manipulation tactics, confessions, suicide threats—everything he could throw at us, nothing consistent. He didn’t take it well, to say the least.
Poetically, on my 30th birthday, my sister threatened him with a restraining order, marking the official end of his presence in my life.
On that day, the first day of my 30s, I had more self-reflection and reconciliation to do with myself than ever. I’m now six years and a few days in and I have very little work to do as far as pulling up the weeds of his impression on me. I rarely think of him anymore. I’d like to say I’m fatherless and erase the experience altogether, but that’s not reality. It’s also a rather dull story when I have my perseverance to be proud of.
Much like this story of my father has taken up a good chunk of my introductory post, it’ll take up a sizable portion of my writing until it’s all told. And I mean I’m going to tell it all: the details of his abuse, the emails we’ve exchanged. I’m holding nothing back regarding this story. I want it to be available as a case study. I want for my story to prop open the door for others who have lived this hell, or are currently living it, to feel zero shame when they tell their stories and name their abusers. All of this is especially important for me to tell, down to the last detail, because the man I’m talking about is still a threat to young women. He has admitted guilt, he has shown no remorse, and he has denied psychiatric help.
Now, for a very serious disclaimer: I’d be lying if I said I felt completely safe from harm by sharing this story. Although I’ve made it obvious I’m dealing with an unwell person, I haven’t emphasized enough the extent of his tendency toward violence. He’s a man who sits on the sofa with a gun under the cushion, sleeps with a gun under his pillow, and drives with a gun in the console. He has pulled a gun on me before (a story I’ll eventually tell). When I was around 13, shortly after my parents’ ugly divorce, my father was constantly talking bad about my mother to me. Things children should never hear, including how he had attempted to hire a hit man to kill her. I repeat: he told his child that he made an effort to have her mother murdered. The fury he felt over his wife leaving him hurt his ego so bad, he’d kill. Violence coupled with an unhealthy sense of pride is a reason to be concerned for me. But even that possibility won’t hold me back from what I have to say.
Note: I have already shared the entire email transcript that details abuse (to which he admits) with other people in case, for some reason, I become unable to finish my work here.
Completely unrelated to the abuse, and actually in defiance of it, I also have a lot of funny stories, optimism, and philosophical conundrums I’d like to share in coming posts. I promise to keep things interesting. Just as I won’t let a disappointing childhood (to say the least) define my life, it won’t define my personal writing either.