For nearly two years, my primary mission in life (aside from typical distractions like working, paying bills, and finding inner peace) has been to write and publish my memoir, which was initially entitled “Depravity.”
I’ve achieved a number of goals and breakthroughs concerning the memoir, not the least of which was breaking the book into two parts and changing the title to “Depravity and Defiance”. For around the past year though, I’ve been at a virtual standstill when it comes to actually writing the damned thing. After months of contemplation, discussion with friends and mentors, and having a few test audiences read along, I’ve learned a few things, which I intend to process for myself in this article.
My primary mistake was based on a concept from the East – that clinging to outcomes and having (generally unrealistic or unenforceable) expectations only leads to stagnation and pain. The purpose of the memoir is to help people who have experienced trauma (which is virtually everyone) on their paths to overcoming it. My mistake has been visualizing the achievement of that goal by yearning for things like mass publication, a Pulitzer prize, or landing on the New York Times Best Seller’s list. I’ve been so focused on the book being translated into dozens of languages, overcoming cultural biases, and winning prestigious intellectual awards, that I’ve amassed this incredible amount of pressure for myself, which has largely prevented me from putting words on paper.
Additionally, while I’ve had an intangible idea for what I want the book to accomplish, I’ve never written it down. As a writer, I should know how important that is, but I’ve long neglected it. By way of a remedy, here is the defined list of life-events that I want to address in my book, which is something of a “Thesis on Life.” Since the book is a memoir, these are largely chronological and are written as I experienced them in my own past.
- The over-arching theme of the book is that humanity is a universal condition, not one to be ashamed of, and not one that we must atone for. Our best efforts need to be viewed with compassion toward the self, and passionate expression in writing is not sinful.
- It’s important to realize that we are the way we are for reasons, and that reflection and meditation on each piece of our lives will lead to a greater understanding of the whole. It isn’t enough to shove hard emotions into a box that we never open. We have to examine and process the emotions we’ve shoved away in order to maximize our potential and achieve our goals.
- Written from my own viewpoint throughout different stages in my life, the book begins with a 10 year old’s attempt to process the following: coming from a divorced/broken home, negotiating a life of inconsistency, growing up with different (and opposing) influences, and overcoming an initial introduction to loss and grief. When I lost one of my best friends at age 11, death (the balance to life) became incredibly tangible to me, and has been so ever since.
- Religion has been a primary influence in my life: I grew up in Pentecostal Churches, have lived with a Muslim tribe in the Horn of Africa, traveled to Central America and witnessed the influence of the Mayans, Voodoo, etc. I’ve also explored Eastern Religion and Yogic lines of thought associated with energies and spirits. Additionally, I was heavily influenced by Greek religious concepts and philosophies during my college studies, and I hope to share the cultural lessons I’ve learned from each. I aspire to break down the stigma that differences must be met with violence, hate, and pain. I also share my experience in processing multiple religions (including the pressure of loving people who have opposing beliefs) in hopes that others will be able to relate to the process. Allegory and parables are used in my book, as they are in many of the influencing sources. In part two, I share my current perspectives, not to convert, but to explore and express.
- The writing progresses to my early teenage years, where I attempt to negotiate the effects of parental alcoholism and violence on a young mind. I address my experiences with misogyny and the self-hate associated with toxic, angry masculinity. Throughout the entirety of the book, I address the multi-generational and highly contagious effects of masculine guilt and insecurity.
- My grandfather was a profound mentor and influencer in my life. I address how impactful healthy relationships can be for young people, even when they aren’t obviously so. I also address the process (from a young person’s perspective) associated with the loss of such an influence to cancer.
- Nearing the middle of book one, I discuss the spiraling cycle and rut that a lifetime of impactful events can have on a child’s mind. I explore internalization and the loneliness associated with not having an avenue of expression. I reflect on how that suppression can lead to violent thought (and eventually, to violent action), which perpetuates guilt and causes a deeper rut to be formed.
- The book explores young love, the cultural and religious pressure that causes young marriages (and subsequent divorces). Family values can cause young people to project things that aren’t there in their ambition toward achieving “the American dream.” I learn about the journey my parents were experiencing during my youth, as I experience it for myself in adulthood.
- I reflect on the impact and journey of military enlistment and the (many) demons that can accompany military service. I write about PTSD, suicidal thoughts, and the overuse of medication in treating veterans and others.
- I traverse the intelligence community, discover a number of truths about politics, government, and international relationships. I write about my journey as a father, both to my own daughter and to foster children. I write about achieving the American Dream.
- I write about my father’s diagnosis and battle with cancer – my experience with separating from service in order to support the family. I cover giving up, breaking down, and the confidence of authenticity that comes from just not giving a damn anymore. I explore how to recover from not giving a damn. I break the American dream into pieces and explore what my own dreams might be.
Book two is about my perspective as an adult, and how I (attempt to) balance and learn from the events listed above.
Below is a list of people who I want the book to influence and help:
- Humans, or anyone who might know one.
Since the book is a thesis on life, I decided to pursue a mentor to hold me accountable for its progress and content. A special thank you to my mentor in completing this project. Also, to my readers, collaborators, and life influences.
An extra special thank you to anyone who accepts me for who I am and the mission that I have in the world rather than trying to change me into something else. Transmutation can be uncomfortable, particularly for the object being transmuted.
In a world of extremes, I hope to use difficult experiences and impactful language to snap people out of complacency and propel them forward in a journey toward balance and acknowledgment of the self.
More to come, for those crazy enough to read along. Much love. This one was written for me, really. Now, I’ve got some work to do.
-Dustin Stitt (Just a man who writes things, because that’s what he’s supposed to do.)