As a writer and a philosopher, I am guided by two edicts: “Write what you know,” (attributed to the world-famous author Mark Twain) and “Know thyself,” (attributed to the ancient Greek Oracle at Delphi.) As a result, I have discovered these two truths: First, the best way to get to know Travis Naughton is by writing about Travis Naughton. Second, the better I know myself, the better my writing becomes.
Therefore, we can conclude that in order for Travis Naughton to be the best Travis Naughton that Travis Naughton can be and the best writer that Travis Naughton can be, Travis Naughton has no choice but to keep writing about Travis Naughton.
But it’s really not about me.
I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes throughout my 47 solar orbits. Rather than cover them up or pretend they never happened, I have found that it’s a much better idea to share the accounts of my missteps with my readers. I do this, not to garner sympathy or fame, but rather to teach people some of the valuable life lessons I have learned the hard way.
Getting to know myself through self-reflection has helped me make peace with my past. I’ve learned that by forgiving myself for the mistakes I made, I can finally love the person I am today.
When I was a young child, moving from town to town with my nomadic family, I was pretty lonely a lot of the time. As the new kid in school every year, I struggled to make and keep friends, and just when my family finally started to put down some roots, my parents got a less-than-amicable divorce. My feelings of loneliness were soon mixed with large doses of deep sadness and raw anger.
I coped by becoming a class clown. I lived for the attention of my peers. As I got older, I took more and more risks to maintain their attention, hoping to eventually gain acceptance and ultimately, true friendship. Along the way, I forgot who the real Travis Naughton was. I had become an angry, self-loathing wisecracker who hid his true feelings with crude humor and alcohol.
It took years, but introspection and honest writing (and Mister Rogers) helped me find happiness.
Fred Rogers, a sage as wise as the Oracle or Twain, said, “Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness. It takes strength to acknowledge our anger, and sometimes more strength yet to curb the aggressive urges anger may bring and to channel them into nonviolent outlets. It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it.”
I try to keep Mister Rogers’ words in mind when I teach children. When I see them struggle, I see a young Travis Naughton struggling with them. Though they aren’t old enough to read much of what I write in the Boone County Journal, I often tell the kids age-appropriate stories about the mistakes I’ve made in life, hoping they will go on to make their own less-destructive ones without having to repeat mine.
I’m no Mister Rogers, nor am I Mark Twain or the Oracle of Delphi, but I have become a better teacher, a better writer, and a better person by following their advice. Yes, I probably talk about Travis Naughton a little too often, but hopefully a person who reads a Travis Naughton column, or a child who sits Mr. Naughton’s classroom, will benefit from Travis Naughton’s words of wisdom someday.
You see, it’s really not about me.