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You Did This (Thanks)

You Did This (Thanks)

Seriously: you did this. And I’m so glad you did.

You did it by making it clear that I haven’t in fact been shouting into the hurricane for the past four years, that the essays published in this space over that period of time were reaching and resonating with an audience of faithful readers.

Beginning in January 2018, in the span of 20 months, I lost my mother, my father, and my job of more than a decade. The day after I collected the last family mementos from my father’s house, the world shut down in a once-a-century pandemic.

It was a lot. And left me with a lot to unpack.

So I did what came naturally: wrote my way through the storm. It’s something I’ve done again and again over the years, the cheapest form of therapy there is; all you need is pen and paper.

But this time was different; because this time you were an integral part of that process. From the very first essay in this sequence—“Earthquakes,” born in those initial raw January weeks after my mother died—you responded. And told me, in essence, “Yes. I’ve felt that, too.”

That sense of fellowship born from common experience seemed to offer a measure of comfort to all involved in the conversation. So I wrote more—for me, because it was what I needed to do, but also for you.

Nearly two years and a dozen or so essays later, I opened up the “Notes” function on my phone—the scratch paper of the smartphone era—and thumbed out this note to self:

A Series of Moments – book

  • Writing
  • Travel
  • Grief
  • Music
  • Family

That’s all there was at the beginning, the 10-word zygote that came together in my imagination on December 7, 2019. It might have amounted to nothing, as book ideas often do. I’ve had at least twice as many false starts as finishes.

Not this time. This time I kept going, adding to the stack of essays, even as I began to consider how perhaps 40 pages’ worth of material might organically grow into a book-sized narrative.

First, I looked backward to the very beginning of my first-person essay writing, the string of op-ed pieces I wrote as a young husband and father between 1992 and 1996. Then I jumped forward to the middle, and the blog I kept for two years in the mid-2000s (“The Open Road”). Finally, I considered how the dozens of essays posted here prior to “Earthquakes” might figure into the equation.

Initially I gravitated toward the obvious: it’s an essay collection. But then, as the real work of crafting a frame around the collected pieces began, something—the process, the muse, the magic—took over, and the manuscript began to transform into something new and different. The key came when I realized that revisiting the when and the how of these essays wasn’t nearly as interesting as exploring the why.

Why, when I set out at age 29 to write op-ed pieces about current events, did I end up writing about my own young family? Why, a decade later, having embraced the total freedom of blogging, did I quickly gravitate toward naming my heroes and the qualities that led me to admire them? Why did this blog, ostensibly created as a platform for talking about my books, almost immediately evolve into a forum for digging deep into the roots of my creative life—and then deeper still, into the relationships that formed the foundations of my identity?

Where those questions led is the tale ahead of us. For the moment, though, let’s just catch a first glimpse of what the seed planted in that December 2019 note on my phone will yield almost exactly two years later:

Coming December 6
Reflections on Love, Art, Faith, Heroes, Grief and Baseball

And again: thanks. It’s no exaggeration at all to say that I couldn’t have done it without you.

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