Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My Life So Far

I decided it would be amusing to write up my autobiography real quick. I don't know why. Maybe it's just because if I am not doing this, then I have to be writing a review of the phonology of Manam, an Oceanic language.

I was born in a small town of 5000 people in Northeast Louisiana. At the time, it was a farming community of mostly cotton and soybeans along with the commercial trappings that 5000 people require. My family was always middle class. My father's family ran the hardware and building materials store, and my mom was a librarian. However, the farming community was close enough that there was literally a soybean field across the street where I would fly my kite and most of the farm kids in school would take a couple weeks off during time to pick the cotton. These were 2nd and 3rd graders staying home to help the family with harvesting.

It was made clear to me from the get-go that school was the most important thing for me. I was enrolled in various sports - little league and tennis - and encouraged there. My older brother was a little league all-star pitcher and we spent many an August afternoon taking him from game to game. But that was always optional. If I was good at sports, that was great, but the really important thing was that I was good at school. The good news for me was that I agreed with them. I remember not getting homework done because I got caught up reading some science section in the text book and not getting around to that actual day's homework. I still do that now. I will literally walk up and down the library stacks pulling books that look interesting off the shelf, putting off the next day's homework as long as I can.

I started first grade early, skipping kindergarten, so that I was 4 for a few weeks when I started. This never really had significant academic consquences in my life, but it didn't help with athletics or dating, especially for someone like me who just isn't very competitive.

My two best friends were David and the killer llama, who is listed as a link on the right there. I spent tons of time over on David's farm from grades 1 - 4. I remember his older brothers' comics and making sasafrass tea from some roots we dug up on his property. I haven't spoken to him since I changed to a different school in 5th grade. I kept hanging out with the llama.

Probably the biggest change in my growing-up life came when I was 12 and I went off to boarding school - The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, NJ, just down the road from Princeton. My parents wanted me to go to get a good education. They were right. By 9th grade at L'ville, I had exhausted the highest math that my local high school offered. I wanted to go myself because my older brother went to a boarding school, which meant it had to be cool. I think I had the happiest time at boarding school, compared to my brother and sister, but that might be more a personality thing than a school thing. I'm just pretty laid-back, or I was at the time, and after about a week, I was off and running.

It was at L'ville that I lost my southern accent. I remember the llama's parents teasing me one day because I said the word "tie" in the standard American accent with the whole diphthong - taaeeee - instead of the proper southern way - tiiii. (Wow, it's hard to explain that without the phonetic alphabet.) I also became a crazy liberal there. In 8th and 9th grade we had peer groups, which were discussions once a week lead by trained seniors. We had one where we discussed whether or not condoms should be available in the school infirmary. Everyone thought yes, except for the one southerner - me - who thought it would be like saying it's OK to have sex. It was 1985, and this was a new thing then, remember. I was 12 and had literally never kissed a girl in my life. What did I know.

L'ville was all boys for my first two years. They went coed, after 177 years, when I was in 10th grade. My friends were Jesse, Steve, Chris, George, and Welly, but especially Jesse, Chris, and Steve, because we ended up running the school theater. After 9th grade, my life was doing school and going to the A.P. Kirby Arts Center, where Jesse, Chris, and I were the school theater techies. Steve was, and still is, the actor. I appeared on stage twice, I think, but otherwise we built sets. Chris ended up as President of the Periwig Club and I as Vice-President of the Periwig Club. I was nominated for President as well, but I declined the nomination after we decided we didn't want to split the vote.

At L'ville, I studied Latin for 4 years and Chinese for 1. I remember my AP European history, a religion class, an English class "women writing about women".

Things didn't go well romantically. The first two years L'ville was coed, so they would bus us to dances at other schools on the weekends if we wished. I was fascinated by girls, but scared to death of them. I would always sign up for the dance with the fewest people on the list, so that the percentages would be in my favor. Most of the time, that meant the bus wouldn't go because there wouldn't be enough people. I made it to a few dances in the end, but I never actually danced with anyone. Finally, at some school, a girl came up to me and asked me if I wanted to dance. My time had come. I immediately declined and ran away as fast as I could.

I was 12.

Other failed attempts at dating followed through-out the high school years. I liked one girl and wrote poetry about her, which I shared with Welly (friend, see above), but that was all. In 11th grade, I asked Shana out and she declined. In 12th grade, I heard that one of my female friends, Regina, liked me. I liked her. After weeks and weeks went by, I finally called her some weekend and asked her to do something. She declined. Apparently, that sort of interest had waned, though we stayed friends. In fact, I had so many female friends by the end of my senior year that my family still talks about my harem (Susan, Phia, Tory, Janet, Regina, Morgan, Thea, Karen, Liz, Melissa - almost all theatre friends) when they were there for graduation.

Things did pick up a little bit in that last year. I was 16 at the time. First, there was Amanda. She was 14, I was 16. We ran into each other trick or treating and spent the entire evening together. We would meet periodically afterwards. We got pizza together once and she gave me a scarf for my head (a 'bee' helmet) that she had spent hours coloring. I remember running around one day where she was supposed to be a dryad. I finally asked her out on a no-holds-barred-real-date. In fact, it was the Prom. Senior Prom. Alas, she declined. We were all going to go to Jesse's apartment in NYC after the prom. She was 14, and she told me this just scared her. I understood and moved on, disappointed. I next asked out Susan who had been a theatre friend for years. She actually said 'yes'. Her dad did give me a lecture about treating her well, which everyone laughed about, because they knew me. This was the senior Prom, and I still had never kissed a girl on the cheek. (No, wait, that's not true! I kissed Anne-Marie in my role in Shakespeare's Henry IV during 11th grade. It was so hard for me and took me so long to do it that she later asked Jesse if I was gay.) Anyway, the prom went well. She slept in my arms in the limo on the way to Jesse's place. Chris and I actually stayed on campus for a couple months, working for the New Jersey June Opera Festival, and Susan and I were friends who played at being boyfriend/girlfriend during that time. We went out - usually with Chris and Phia - but sometimes alone. I finally kissed her on the lips. Two quick pecks. Then the job ended, and so did Susan and I.

Next step was Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Naturally, this is where my academic interests flourished. I took Chinese there for 3 years, read all sorts of Buddhism and Western philosophy stuff, and became an Asian Studies major. Most that I consciously remember from schooling was from Carleton or later. Also, living on the same floor as me was a woman named N. Some of you may have heard of her. Even during orientation, we ended up going to a the Jesse James Day fair together - with a couple others. We did calculus homework together. In September, friends set us up to go to a dance. I actually danced this time. We kissed that night. I won't go through all the details of our relationship here. The short version is that she's my wife. We dated for 8 years, and have been married now for 7. In just a couple years I will reach the point where I spent 17 years of my life not knowing her and 17 with her.

After college, I had no idea what to do with myself. I spent the summer with my mom who was a Professor of Finance now at Ole Miss in Oxford, MS. I ended up enrolling in the philosophy master's program at Ole Miss as well. N came to live with me and two years went by. And now came some turning points in my life. I got accepted to two things after finishing the M.A. I was accepted to teach English in Japan and to work doing software customer support in Nashville, TN. I thought it was time for me to get out of academic life. I did that well, I knew, but I needed to do something else finally, so I moved to Nashville.

Not everyone knows this, but N and I sort of broke up at this time. I find it hard to believe now. She moved to pursue a Masters in Library Science at the U of Washington. I went to Nashville, where I ended up rooming with - of all people - the llama. (See the link over there on the right again to find out who he is.) We lasted as roommates for two years I think. You see, after about 1 year, I was flying up to Seattle every chance I got to visit a certain someone. A few months later I bought the ring. N and I were married right after she finished her Masters. We honeymooned in British Columbia and then in the Ryder truck, driving from the Canadian border back to Nashville.

I stayed with my company in Nashville for 8 full years, but I mentally checked out after about 5, when I finally realized the company had no career path I was interested in or suited for. In 2002, I started applying to grad schools in linguistics, cognitive science, and philosophy. (This is more consistent than it sounds; ask if you wanna know.) In January of 2003, B was born. Yippee! On the down side, I didn't get in to any programs. So I applied again in 2003, modifying the school list somewhat. Finally, in Fall 2004, I started the program here at the U of H. And there you go.

And this took a lot longer than I intended. I soooo need to be working now.


Christopher Robin said...

Good story, but that's what comes from a good life. Thanks for showing us a bit more of who you are.

kristybox said...

That was absolutely fascinating. Thanks.

court said...

this made me cry, your such an amazing person. i learned alot, even for being your sister. i am so happy for you!!! if i did mine (which is something i said i would do after college), it would be the complete opposite! we are talking full on 180 twist. but your life is still beginging, everyday you wake up, and with the family you have and person you are, its gonna be a beautiful life!

ps. i loved borading school, it was reed college i had issues with. millbrook was some of the best years of my life.

pacatrue said...

Glad you found it worth your time. I actually wrote it for you folk, as you are the people who aren't already my family, my wife, etc who know almost all of it.

Very strange to re-visit all that stuff.