The biggest risk and greatest reward is always in honesty and vulnerability.
~ Melissa Ann Pinney
This blog has been hard. After reading Rise of the Machines by Kristen Lamb I decided I needed to be more upfront and honest on my blog. More honest and upfront in my social media efforts in general. I’ve talked about money, hopes and dreams, my family, some gut-wrenching stuff that I wasn’t even sure people would be interested in. Plus, to make all of that incredibly public was a huge risk for both myself and my wife.
My wife and I were raised to always hide the bad stuff. We aren’t supposed to talk about relying on food stamps to feed our kids. We aren’t supposed to talk about how scared we were when we moved from Ohio to Wyoming. We aren’t supposed to talk about how there have been some Christmases when we didn’t have enough money to get toys for our kids and the only thing under the tree was what my parents had sent us through the mail.
Years ago when we moved to Nebraska, we ran from problems we didn’t completely understand—financial, job, marital. On the verge of divorce and so broke we pawned our wedding rings on a regular basis. A good meal was when we went to McDonald’s and bought a Big Breakfast and split the eggs and the hashbrown between ourselves and our daughter.
That kind of stuff we aren’t supposed to talk about. It is not our best foot forward. Instead, we are supposed to talk about how we moved to Nebraska and went to work for a TV station as a videographer—but not the other side of that job, when the office manager fired me and had to drive me back home and he cried through the entire process.
These tragic stories, however, define me just as much as the success stories. As much as my gut reaction is to separate and filter out the bad stuff so the public is left with an incomplete diet of only “wow, this guy has a terrific life, he couldn’t be more put together.” Except that’s not the true me. Never will be.
When I wrote Wasteland, I was trying to wrap my brain around what had happened to me in my twenties. I dated this girl I was madly in love with and we broke up. My parents scared her and she ran away from me so damn fast that I was left wondering what the hell happened even though she flat out told me why she was leaving. In addition, I lived in a boarding house on Twelfth Avenue in Columbus, Ohio, worked as a janitor at a bar, watched people drink and smoke their lives away, got wrapped up in a cult—yeah, I don’t think I have ever really said that out loud: I was a member of a cult. What happens in Wasteland though is fiction. I have gruesome scenes of violence, sex, drugs. I continue to worry my parents will read this thing and think I’m strung out on drugs, that I’m hiding a homosexual lifestyle, that I need serious psychiatric help.
I’m not sure I will ever get over that feeling. How much honesty is too much honesty?
My current work in progress is probably the bigger worry. The theme and style of the novel is more in line with what my parents actually do read, and as much fiction is involved in the make-up of the draft, there is so much family history and autobiographical aspects that when the book is finished, putting it out there in the public scares me. Sometimes though, there are tasks that you have to do in this life that are bigger and more important than the people around you, and putting that kind of work out into the world only happens successfully when you allow yourself to be at least a little bit vulnerable.