As eager as I had been to dine at Ashland’s newest eatery, I was equally apprehensive about appearing in public so soon after announcing to the entire world in last week’s
column that I recently quit drinking. Nevertheless, my family and I braved the freezing January temperatures last Saturday night and made our way to the cozy and delicious Jose Jalapeno’s Mexican Restaurant where, I am happy to report, my concerns about being made uncomfortable by prying eyes and hushed table conversations proved completely unfounded.
As a columnist who writes about himself more than he should, I feel compelled to share with you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the frequently ridiculous or occasionally troubling truth about yours truly. My life is an open book, (or, more accurately, an open newspaper.) Honest writing about oneself can be therapeutic and rewarding, but it can also leave the writer feeling extremely vulnerable and self-conscious. I believe that anything less than total honesty would be a fraud committed against you the reader, and I value your trust and readership too much to withhold the full, unvarnished truth from you.
Although I was initially unsure whether revealing the truth about my drinking problem was a wise choice, the support shown to me by my friends in Southern Boone County proved that my recent streak of good decision-making remains intact. Receiving nothing but copious amounts of love and support both online and in-person, I’m once again reminded why I choose to make Ashland my home.
Within moments of stepping into the restaurant’s crowded dining room, my foolish fears were completely assuaged. Friends, co-workers, and several of my former and current students and their parents went out of their way to say hello to me as I sat with my family. Instead of feeling like a social pariah, I felt like the most beloved person on the planet. Let me just say, you people sure are good for an old man’s ego.
Actually, my readers and friends, you are good for this old man’s soul. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve the love you’ve shown me these last few years. Perhaps it’s because you appreciate the candor and self-deprecation in my writing. Maybe it’s because my folly makes you feel better about your own life. Or perchance, is it because some of the most accepting, generous, and empathetic people in the world live in Southern Boone County, Missouri?
When I sit down to write, my ultimate goal is always to be relatable to the reader. It is my desire that we make a real and meaningful connection. Whether I’m writing about the joys and frustrations of being a stay-at-home parent or about being a flawed human being battling demons and addictions, I hope that, more often than not, you can relate to the topics upon which I elaborate.
While I don’t anticipate winning a Pulitzer anytime soon, being a columnist in a small-market newspaper is not without its rewards. Chief among them is the knowledge that readers appreciate me both as a writer and as a member of the community. A nationally-syndicated writer may make truckloads of cash, but a local columnist receives hearty handshakes and sincere thank yous (and the occasional critique) from his or her readers on a daily basis.
The feedback I receive is extremely gratifying. A young reader once told editor Bruce Wallace, “The article that Naughton guy wrote last week—that was pretty cool.” This praise becomes noteworthy and pretty powerful when you take into account that it was given by a quiet, morose-looking high school student who had read a column I’d written supporting LGBT rights and same-sex marriage. Another reader recently told me, “Even though I disagree with you on almost everything political that you write about, I still love reading your columns every week.”
I relish that feedback. I thrive on it. A few days after I posted the link to last week’s column to Facebook so my out of market friends could read it, I snuck a peek at the comments section below my post. Although I have largely abstained from the social media platform since the post-election vitriol drove me away, I do like to read the feedback my friends take the time to leave for me. All of the comments regarding my decision to stop drinking have been overwhelmingly supportive—and quite humbling.
From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank all of you for reading and for caring. I appreciate you more than this poor excuse for a writer could ever express.