Writing and the Chronology

One of the most eye-opening aspects of writing memoir, for me, has been the chronology; creating a spreadsheet to mark the sequence of events which shaped my life. Helping to better understand all of it, especially when absolving and forgiving myself for mistakes made, either due to age and immaturity, or circumstance.

For too long, I held guilt that I was a terrible person because I hustled (i.e., engaged in survival sex work), played a pseudo-husband, became an absent father. All, unrealistic expectations and responsibilities which fueled vices at an early age.

Despite having survived being raped when ten-years-old, molested at fourteen, and seduced by the wife of my youth pastor while only sixteen; for decades, I was unable to avoid the alcoholism and substance abuse that follows such trauma.

This was the beginning of my running away, to the streets of San Francisco.

Before having a license to drive, I’d stolen a car, been chased by the police, apprehended (with guns drawn) and arrested. At fifteen, I started my freshman year of high school with a probation officer I had to report to in-person twice-a-month.

The city by the bay was a little over an hour’s drive from a small town I wreaked havoc on. Headlines in the weekly newspaper labeled it a summer crime spree, later branding me a juvenile delinquent. All, leading to what could have been another casualty of the school-to-prison pipeline, but I had other ideas.

Classmates bullied me for being poor. My own family, kids at school, and strangers, called me fruit, fairy, queer.

The woman who detoured my coming out still maintains our intergenerational affair was normal; that she loved me. Yet I cannot comprehend why an older married woman with children, would destroy her marriage for a gay teenage boy. It was wrong no matter what narrative she continues to spin.

She needn’t worry about felony charges. Lucky for her, there’s a statute of limitations in California. The same statute which prevents Corey Feldman from bringing his molester to justice.

In hindsight, I realize I am not totally to blame for our broken family. I was too young, uneducated and unprepared for the real world.

Understanding my lack of parental instinct, plus its collateral damage, were hard truths to accept. Unfortunately, opportunities to make a better life for myself also created distance from my children’s lives.

Mapping out this journey, I was able to recognize how and when I escaped a cycle of dysfunction. More-importantly, where I grew and prospered.

It was through the chronology where I decided to break my story into three memoirs, each covering a different aspect of my life. Lacking both fame or notoriety, I felt it easier to create distinct but standalone works, which could be read individually or in succession.

Learning that memoir is a story from one’s life, rather than an entire life story (that would be autobiography), the chronology helped when determining what elements would contribute to each allegory.

In 2016, I began freewriting, and sharing chapters in a writer’s group for critique and feedback. It was a tough endeavor, but many who heard my “powerful story” said they felt moved, that it “had to be told.” Some cried, others offered sincere advice, while more than a few gave practical direction.

Seven years and several writing and publishing conferences later, I’m almost ready to reveal my trilogy to readers with open minds and especially open hearts. There are still a few very personal decisions left, but I’ll leave that for another blogpost.

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