Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#298 Michael Davidson: How Dangerous He Can Be to Himself

Michael Davidson was born in Miami in 1979. At 2, his parents moved him to Houston and he had a fun childhood there. His parents weren’t over-protective, so he ran around the pool and swam a lot. He rode his bike, walked through the woods, and carved his initials into a gazebo. He climbed onto the roof and leaned against the chimney whenever he was locked out and no one was home. He didn’t read much. He stayed home from school and watched cartoons. He mostly ate grilled cheese sandwiches and mac ‘n cheese. Michael’s first hobby was collecting baseball cards, which he still has, and the stack is a personal reminder of what it means to grow historic. When Michael was 12, his parents moved the family to Barranquilla, on the coast of Colombia, where his mother is from. There, Michael played tennis on red clay courts and Ping-Pong in his sister’s room. He ate arepas and empanadas and deditos. Cheese follows Michael everywhere he goes. In high school, Michael played tennis and did yearbook, which probably helped him get into college, where he studied economics, thinking it would help him get a job. This was a misconception. So far, he hasn’t used his degree for any specific kind of employment. Michael has done remote work for Google, worked as a golf range ball picker, a residential appraiser, and a math tutor. Michael has lived with his wonderful girlfriend Bridget since 2007 and he can’t stop making her smile because he likes seeing her smile so much. Also, Bridget makes home feel like home and he likes it when she plays the piano, which makes him think about how beautiful her mind is. For a while, Michael thought that signing the mortgage to his first home was an important event, but deciding to get out from under the mortgage and start living well again, free from being indentured to the bank, was more important. Here’s a subject change: Michael can only clip his nails outside. Something else: he has a scar between his bottom lip and chin that isn’t small. He got it from the Pacific Ocean, which picked him up when he was body surfing and slammed his face into the seafloor, where he floated around underwater and thought he was going to die. When he surfaced, he felt the sun and laughed, but he couldn’t talk right and part of his mouth was collapsed. Michael didn’t know what kind of person he was until the Pacific Ocean hurt him. He sees the scar in the mirror every day: He sees people staring at the scar when he talks. It’s a reminder of how dangerous he can be to himself. In 2009, Michael’s grandfather died and he hadn’t seen him for nearly a year. He can’t remember exactly what he said or what he looked like the very last time he saw him. In 2010, shortly before his grandmother died, he held her hand in the hospital and said goodbye. This somehow lightened the weight of losing her. Recently, Michael learned how to handpress paperback novels right on his kitchen table and he named the enterprise Tiny TOE Press, which published his first novel, Austin Nights. Michael is happy and healthy and at peace with everyone around him.

#231 The Arrival of Peter Wolfgang

Peter Wolfgang was born and raised in the small town of Coshocton, Ohio, which is good for learning how to play football, taking piano lessons, and exploring the woods. When Peter was a kid, things were confusing and he didn’t know what to rely on. His parents split up when he was 2 and then got back together when he was 5—and then his little brother Daniel was born right after that. It was difficult to understand his parents liking each other again after all the yelling and fighting. Mostly though, Peter remembers the woods behind his house where he often played alone. When Peter was 9, his brother Andrew was born and the family moved into a house with no woods behind it, so he started playing sports with the neighborhood kids, which was sort of embarrassing because he never had the cool tennis shoes. Peter loves his two brothers so much, especially how comfortable they are with themselves; the way they look up to him makes him want to be a better person. In high school, Peter discovered pot when he smoked it with Tommy, and that was sort of a revelation in self-awareness. Peter also achieved a lot in high school–won awards for good grades and playing the piano, lettered in soccer, won a scholarship to college. Unfortunately, Peter took no pride in these things. It was easy to be the smart guy in a small town where many people ended up working for a local factory that made rubber floor mats for cars. Eventually, Peter got bored with Coshocton and tired of feeling un-cool, like he didn't fit in. Peter wanted to move to a big city and left for NYC when NYU offered him a scholarship. This change opened up lots of possibilities, both good and bad, but the bad possibilities were more prominent and Peter made a serious effort to do himself in. He never thought more than a few days ahead, and he decided to study philosophy, mostly because thinking that way was easy for him and he could get by with cramming. Then Peter met Heather, who is beautiful and super-smart; she is really put together and confident and she helped Peter realize that a person can be interesting and creative and not self-destructive. After Peter met Heather, he actually started trying for the first time. He got serious about his career. He went to Columbia for his MBA and that opened up so many new possibilities for him. And he only ever thought to try for it because he wanted to make a future for Heather and with Heather. They have been married for over a year now and now Peter feels like he is finally able to take advantage of all the possibilities in New York City. It’s as if Peter is just now arriving for the first time.


#53: The Healing Powers of Joy Leftow

Joy Leftow was born to a creative family in NYC and because of this, in part, grew up in extreme poverty. She slept with her mom and two sisters in one bedroom, while her dad and brother slept in the living room. She had two blouses, one skirt, and shoes with holes in them. The family had a radio, but never a TV. There were more problems than poverty, though. Her dad was crazy and often exposed himself to Joy and her two sisters. Her mom had cancer, but, thankfully, survived. Years later, her dad attacked the doctor who saved her mother’s life because her dad imagined they were having an affair, which led to him being hospitalized at Bellevue. Joy wrote her first poem, about snowflakes, at 4 years old, and then wrote many more poems and stories during her young life—everything was fantasy then. She stopped writing in the sixth grade, though, and started acting out, cutting school and smoking cigarettes. She dropped out of high school and married a drug dealer, but the marriage failed and the drug dealer went to prison. During these difficult years, Joy began keeping diaries—nothing was fantasy then—and now is widely published writer. After her now ex-husband went to prison, Joy went back home to live in the same neighborhood where she grew up. Things are much better now. She went back to school at Columbia and now has two masters degrees, one of which is in social work, because Joy is a healer, of herself and of other people. How else could she have survived?

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