In his new memoir, United-executive-turned-author T. D. Arkenberg, ’86, chronicles his journey through personal loss, coping with the 9/11 attacks, and coming out to his parents.
- May 01, 2018
- Media, Entertainment, and Sports
“I poured my heart into this memoir because I firmly believe it can help people going through various crises of their own.”
I had many opportunities to write at United, where I got compliments on my communication skills. Many of my roles required sending memos and letters, often to thousands of employees. Whether I was managing United’s O’Hare Airport customer service or a whole region of airport personnel, salespeople, and cost-center staff, I learned the essence of connecting with people, and zeroing in on a core message. While creative writing is more complicated than a business memo, I knew that I could make the transition because of my success communicating in the corporate world.
Each of my books contains little seeds of myself, but this memoir was different. It was tough to write, because it was a hard time in my life—to lose my parents and also have to focus all of that energy at United. People often asked me how I got through it, but I didn’t know. I just did. I just pushed through to the other side. It helped to be so supported by my spouse, Jim. In a way, I want to succeed for him as much as I want to for myself. He pushes and validates me. He reads everything I write. I wouldn’t be a writer if Jim weren’t in my life.
I think, at the end of day, I poured my heart into this memoir because I firmly believe it can help people going through various crises of their own. A couple months ago, I spoke at a meeting of PFLAG, the nation’s largest family and ally organization for LGBTQ people. I read to them the section of the memoir where I came out to my parents. I could tell the passage connected with the audience. I left very encouraged that I’d helped those parents understand what their child was going through.
Words have an impact, and if this memoir can help someone going through grief, or caregiving a parent, or experiencing crises at work, that will be incredibly affirming and exciting for me. It’s easy to question whether writing was the right path, but I continue to write. I still have many stories in me. So I simply focus on the writing and continue to create stories that people want to read.
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