Why Am I Here? (introduction)


im pey library at phillips exeter academy

It is hard to imagine what my life would’ve looked like had these events not transpired. I used to think about it all the time, obsessed with it really. Today, with all these years separating the events I’m about to unravel for you, I am stable, mostly happy, and best of all, content.

This then is an excavation. Retelling as a process of healing and recovery. Remembering. Linking these hard moments with my current life. Letting go of sadness and resentment about what might have been. This book is less than a coming-of-age story because the young man does not really gain any personal insights or gain a new perspective. Weaving through these words is a hopefulness that was instilled in me by my mother. It’s this positivism that has kept me alive.

My inner voice. Today, it says things like, “It’s going to be okay, John. You’re going to make it through this. Someday you will generate tremendous creative projects to transform and illuminate this pain.” Back then, the inner messages of encouragement were more basic, “You’re going to be okay. You’re going to survive this.”

I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself here, so, let’s just assume that I’m a middling-age man, in a warm and comfortable place, typing these stories out to myself really. An inner dialogue of sorts. I promise to cut as close to the bone as I can. I will not put a happy bow on this exhilarating time. Here we go.


I suppose I needed to see that photograph of me standing apart from my cohort in the snow. I needed to remember, maybe call up, some of the courage and ambition that kid had, shaggy hair, away-from-home prep look, sly grin. He believed he belonged with the creative elite. He jumped the highest and loudest and still his parents divorced, and still his dad drank, and still his mom knew she had to get him out of town.

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