Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
I don’t know how fast you all read. Well, probably you read at varying speeds, since there are more than one of you. I took a reading speed test online, and it said I read about 450 words per minute. I don’t know how accurate this is. I tried to read carefully because I was reading for comprehension as well as speed. I don’t know if I would have had a comparable level of comprehension at a higher speed, and I don’t know if I would have gotten much farther if I hadn’t had mouse and paging-down issues. It doesn’t matter. I decided it would be more useful to look up how fast the average person reads, which is supposedly 250-300 words per minute. I think my gentle readers are above average, so let’s say you read 350-400 words per minute. Then let’s say that you don’t feel like reading very quickly today because if you only read 300 words per minute, I only have to write 1,200 words for today’s entry.
OR–you can set a timer for four minutes and see how far you get.
I was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1971. I moved around a lot as a child because my dad was in and out of school, in and out of the army (he was drafted, but served stateside), and in and out of jobs. And also, we were in and out of houses. I went to four different elementary schools, but only one middle school and one high school, although though my parents didn’t settle in one place until I was about 16. I stopped trying to make friends around age 11, which is interesting, because that’s when I finally stopped switching schools and having to leave people. I socialized with people at school and at church, but I didn’t really have actual friends–like the kind you would have over to your house–again until I was 16. It didn’t have anything to do with my parents buying a house and me feeling like it was safe to put down roots. (Actually, my new home didn’t feel very permanent, as it was a condo and there were seven of us. I got the feeling my parents were trying to squeeze us out.) It just sort of happened, like most friendships do. I’ve not had a lot of experience with friendships that were deliberately cultivated. In my observation, that sort of thing almost never works out.
As I said, there were seven of us. I was the second of five children–four girls and one baby brother. I was five years younger than my older sister and ten years older than my brother; my two younger sisters were pretty close together in age, so I was closer to them. At least we played together the most. I shared a room with each of my siblings at one point–even my brother, when he was a baby. (Not recommended, by the way, putting the baby in with a ten-year-old–he woke me up a lot, and any hope my parents had of letting him cry it out was dashed when I started crying along with him. Poor Mom.) I have fond memories of sharing a room with bythelbs–we laughed a lot. We used to get in trouble for being too loud at night, when everyone else was trying to sleep. I remember one night, Mom had already been in to warn us once or twice, and I didn’t want to get in trouble again, but bythelbs was making me laugh so hard that I couldn’t think of the words we need to be quiet or Mom will come, so I slapped her across the face. That stopped the laughter right quick. (I bet foo4luv is grateful our stint as roommates was less raucous.)
I got an inter-district transfer to finish high school where I started it. I’m not sure if I would have wanted to, had I known that the school district my new home was in only required two years of PE, whereas my high school required three. Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t know this, as I did make very good friends my junior and senior years; I stayed in touch with all of them long after high school, but not much in the last ten years. I do still talk to one of them on the phone semi-annually. I used to be a great correspondent. Ironically, this went out the window when we got internet in our home. Sad, but true.
I was a good student, and I graduated somewhere in the top 20 (you know, the part that wasn’t the top 10), but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and the thought of going to school four more years depressed me, so I decided to take a year off and see what happened. I got a temporary secretarial job at a hospital in the instrumentation department. I pretty much hated it. That’s when I decided I should probably go to college after all. I wanted to establish some independence, though, so after my temp job ended, I moved several hundred miles away to live on my own in Portland. It was about 20% fun and 80% lonely and scary. I also had difficulty finding work. I finally got a job at one of those scandalous savings and loans, but after a couple months I was let go and couldn’t find anything else, so I decided to go back home until college started that fall.
I enrolled in a small Baptist college in Virginia because they gave me a scholarship. My family was still in Southern California. One of my professors told me I’d gotten it backwards; I should have grown up in this crappy Virginia town and gone to college in California. I don’t regret my decision, though. I had a great college experience. I was the only Mormon in the place, and that’s the only time in my life I’ve ever been special. I majored in English, which was dumb, but at least I did well. Initially I planned to be a teacher, but that plan didn’t survive the first semester. When it was time to graduate, I still didn’t have a plan, although I toyed with entering a library science program. I ended up going home to California and getting another crappy temp job.
Several crappy temp jobs, actually, but at some point I decided I should get my MFA in creative writing, so I applied to graduate schools, and I got into one back east (although I can’t remember which one) and two in California. I was leaning toward one in Fresno, but at this point I had made a lot of good friends through church, and I was reluctant to pick up and leave again, so I decided to attend one that was closer to home. Unfortunately, it was impossible for me to get the classes I needed, so after spending one semester earning 3 credits and facing another semester when I could enroll in 0 credits, I decided it was time to change plans again. When one of my friends asked me to get an apartment with her, I said sure, decided that an MFA was impractical anyway and maybe it was time I became a teacher after all. I got into a certification program at a local college and lasted about two weeks before realizing that there was a reason I’d decided against teaching the first time. That’s when I got a temp job as an editorial assistant at the newspaper.
The temp job turned into a permanent job. My department produced the lifestyle section for three area newspapers; my job was about half administrative and half writing. This was when I finally learned how to talk on the phone, although I never learned to like it. In those days people were very impressed with my organization and efficiency. I was still young and childless then. I met my husband through friends at church, and six months after our first date, we were married. He had just finished his sophomore year of college. A couple months after the wedding, I discovered I was pregnant. In those days doctors were less clear about the effect anti-depressants had on birth control pills. I forgot to mention that I’d been on anti-depressants since my sophomore year of college. So I had Princess Zurg and quit my job, and thus my husband became Sugar Daddy. He worked two jobs while finishing his senior year. I didn’t see much of him until we moved to Oregon and he started graduate school. We lived on his stipend. (It wasn’t pretty.)
We lived in Eugene, Oregon, for nine months, and then SD got a paid internship at the Big Satan, so we moved to Portland for nine months, during which time I had Mister Bubby. The paid internship was a blessing because I didn’t want to say anything, but we were kind of starving. When it was over, we moved back to Eugene and settled in for the long haul, except a year later SD was offered another paid internship in Portland, this time for four months. After that, we came back to Eugene (again) and I had the most miserable pregnancy of my life starring Elvis. This was around the time Princess Zurg was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Shortly after Elvis was born, SD finished his dissertation, got his Ph.D. and was offered a permanent position at the Big Satan, so we moved up to Portland again.
And I’m at 1,500 words and eleven years ago. Suffice it to say, we bought a house six months later, and that’s when we got the internet and I started this blog, so if you want to know the rest of the story, you can consult the archives. Thank you, and goodnight.