Introduction - My American Sojourn

Welcome to Raymond’s Memoir Writing by me, Raymond Maxwell. Librarian, archivist. Retired foreign service officer, former naval officer and enlisted submariner from Greensboro, NC. Docent and storyteller. Study group leader for the August Wilson American Century Cycle.

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I guess this is as good a place as any for an introduction.

And what goes into an introduction? One expects there will be folks who will find a reason to read what you’ve written, whether out of curiosity, or just because. So the introduction is a letter, a conversation if you will, with the reader. You will want to talk to them about the writing of the book, why you wrote it, perhaps who is the intended audience. So let’s begin that conversation.

My 65th birthday fell in the middle of the coronavirus lock down of 2020 and my remote archiving contract was reaching its conclusion. I had time on my hands, and, I felt, a story worth telling. There were all these pieces floating around, these writings I had stashed on my hard drive, or posted to several different blogs, particularly my career transition blog, also called “might be time for a change here.” Those pieces became the nucleus of the thing. But there were bits and pieces that had not been written, nor even explored in my memory. So I made an outline and began the process of filling in the missing parts.

There is no great tragedy outside the normal ebb and flood of life that had to be overcome or that formed a central pivot around which events would turn. At least none that I claim. We had a fairly normal upbringing, and it was only when my mother told me there wasn’t money to buy the books for the Junior Great Books Program I wanted to join that I began to understand the idea that some families had less money and some had more. Not to be deterred, nonetheless, I decided to skip the “Junior” stage and go straight to the Great Books of the Western World whose volumes were available for free at the public library.

But back to the point. Why is my story even worth telling? Well, there is an element of egoism here, I mean, after all, it is my story. Life, wrote a young Langston Hughes, ain’t been no crystal stair. But it has been a progression of sorts, finding my way among the various paths that existed, and when necessary, finding my way back to the path. I share the story in case there is someone out there in similar circumstances, trying to find their way.

And who is the intended audience? I would hope some of this may be of interest to friends, colleagues, fellow travelers I’ve met along the way. My experiences in prep school might be of interest to my classmates and to the successive generations of folks who have tried that path. Certainly, speaking with current students, co-alums, suggests that many challenges not only remain, but are the same if not similar.

Perhaps some of my detours may be “enlightening” to anyone contemplating their own version of a detour.

Those navigating a career in a bureaucracy might find clues, if not solace, in my navigations, in the military, and in the foreign service. Even in way finding in general.

Someone may be curious about life on a submarine, or about the inner workings of foreign policy, the layers and levels underneath the romanticism and the pomp and glitter. They can find that in spades here.

Particularly, family, friends, near and far, this Bud’s for you, as the beer commercial says. And if you only know of me publicly, not closely, this Bud’s also for you. And if you are just curious about how and why a guy like me made it through a non-tragic life of ups and downs, overcoming minor setbacks and constantly charging forward, then hey, this Bud’s for you, too.

There is no potential movie here, not enough drama for the stage or the screen. It was recorded by his students that Socrates said "The unexamined life is not worth living." But Malcolm X is credited with the first corollary to the Socratic theorem: "The examined life is extremely painful." Join me in the examination because it’s all been worthwhile.

postscript. If you only read the foreword, the sandbox, the introduction, the prologue, the epilogue and the afterword you’ll get the gist of the story. You can do that in less than half an hour and subscription for those sections is not necessary. But the grit of the story is in the details. So, as the Four Tops say in their R&B hit, Still Waters, “Walk with me.”

In the meantime, tell your friends!