“I’ve never had any desire to become a writer, no lifelong passion to write that finds its origin in a hated childhood or in a love for words. I stumbled upon it the same way a scientist stumbles upon a cure, unwittingly while on the search for something else. It started off being deeply personal and all mine, but the more I explore, the deeper I go inside, the more I become everyone.”
Who is Christopher Troy?
“Son, we have the honor of having come from the first democracy, and you have the privilege of having been born in the greatest one…so, you see, your responsibility to public service is greater than it is for most people.”
These were the words I heard often as a boy growing up in a working-class neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. These were the words I heard every cold and rainy Election Day as my immigrant mother bundled me up before accompanying me door to door to remind our neighbors to vote, not for any one candidate, just to vote – my coat pockets lined with cold, hard Halloween candy from the previous week. These were the words I heard as I embraced my parents one last time before boarding the plane for Paris where I was about to begin my studies in philosophy and political science, barely eighteen, hardly aware of the challenges waiting for me in a foreign land, curious to discover why Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson spent so much time in la Ville Lumière. I soon realized it had as much to do with the nightlife as it did with the Enlightenment. I stayed for eight years.
Fresh with political theories in my head and prestigious diplomas in my hand, I decided to return home and learn to fight in the bare-knuckles arena of Chicago politics. And who better to train me in the Chicago Way than Mayor Richard M. Daley. Within four years I went from intern in the Mayor’s Office to political liaison in our nation’s capital, hailing our new chief – one of Chicago’s very own – from my office balcony at 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue on January 20, 2009.
The times were tumultuous, the country on its knees. All bets were off because the old rules no longer applied. Washington, D.C. had become a free-for-all, everyone seeking to get a piece of that $831 billion American pie. Except that nothing’s for free in the game of politics, everything has a price, and most people end up paying with their souls. And there I was: a fresh-faced kid from Chicago, who didn’t sound like he was from Chicago, but who was looking to make a difference. Apparently, eight years of French distorts the muscles in your mouth, so you sound a little funny when you speak your mother tongue. But I used it to my advantage…people like different.
Here’s the moral we all know but so easily forget: When we spend enough time in the swamp, whether we intend it or not, whether we like it or not, many of us become like the smarmy creatures that dwell in it. In six years, I went from meeting someone and giving them the benefit of the doubt to meeting someone and simply doubting their benefit to me. It was no longer about serving the public, but rather serving interests. I slowly became the man I promised myself to never become. And it took a life tragedy to wake me from the egotistical trance I had lulled myself into. But when I woke up, I walked away.
For two years, I have been wandering. First across the country by train, then up and down the Pacific Coast, and finally across the Atlantic back to Europe, where my adventure began nearly 20 years ago. The unstructured days of my new life have given me the freedom I am searching for, the freedom to slow my pace and focus my thoughts on the people and places that have brought me to this point in my life. I have given my past the time to catch up with my present. And during this, I thought: The past is just a goodbye unless it’s redeemed by words on paper, a figment of my imagination unless my imagination makes it real and permanent, makes it impossible to say goodbye. I began to write.
I’ve never had any desire to become a writer, no lifelong passion to write that finds its origin in a hated childhood or in a love for words. I stumbled upon it the same way a scientist stumbles upon a cure, unwittingly while on the search for something else. It started off being deeply personal and all mine, but the more I explore, the deeper I go inside, the more I become everyone.
I enjoy many things: a delicious meal, bourbon and wine, fast cars (not necessarily in that order), art in all its forms, nature in all its majesty, a good book, a clever riddle, a powerful speech, silence – the list is as long as my curiosity is endless. But when I distill that list to its essential elements it seems there are only two real interests: people and places. I have spent most of my life traveling to new places and meeting new people, learning the history of one through the stories of the other. I still hear my parents’ words, clearly and ever louder. I believe it was Yeats who said: “In dreams begins responsibility.” Though my responsibility remains, it is my dream that has changed.
I am currently in Athens, living among its ancient and economic ruins and writing, and if my stories and my voice speak to you, I would like to hear what you think. If not, I thank you for your time… our most precious commodity.