Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How did I get here?

Not in the figurative sense.  In the literal sense.  Like how in the world did I end up living in central Illinois for most of the last 20 years? Well, here goes.

I was born in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan.  My dad was working for Ford Motor Company at the time (mid 1960s.) My parents had married in 1964 - February 14th to be exact, and I think right after they got married, they moved to Detroit.  My dad was in management, having recently finished his masters in business at University of Illinois.  (Oh, just as an aside, I love the show Mad Men, and I always envision that things were sort of like that at Ford when my dad was working there.)  And despite my mother being told by her doctor that she would never have any children, my older brother was born in January of 1965, and I was born in the summer of 1966.  We stayed in Detroit until 1968 and then we moved to Champaign, Illinois so that my dad could do his PhD (in Organizational Behavior.) I remember my mom typing on my father's dissertation for HOURS.  I went to nursery school there (we didn't call it preschool yet) and kindergarten and first grade. (Oh, my sister was born in Champaign in 1970.) My dad told us that summer after first grade that we were moving to Lincoln, Nebraska because he had got a job as a professor in organizational behavior.  (When I was a kid, I could never remember/pronounce organizational behavior.  I just said that he taught at the university.)

We moved during the summer of 1972.  We moved into a split-level with green shag carpet on the top level and blue shag carpet on the bottom level.  I shared a room with my sister for the first year or so, but finally, my dad couldn't stand the fighting between us, and he built me a room at the end of our enormous family room.  (It was HUGE - because my room was about 12 x 14 with a very large walk-in closet.  I have no idea how big the room was before he put the room in, but it was HUGE. Did I mention that?)  I went to school at this fantastic, totally 70s, elementary school.  Everything was very, very individualized.  I thrived with that type of curriculum.  They also strongly encouraged anything creative - music, art, writing, etc. I loved that school.  I attended that school from second grade until the November of my 6th grade year.  This was before 6th grade moved to "middle school" and so it was still in elementary.  My parents had decided that they wanted to have a bigger yard and they wanted us to attended the "new" junior high and high school and that was on the other side of town, so we moved.  (Oh, my youngest brother was born in January of 1977 and this was November of 1977. Oh, and after a year or two of teaching, my dad became an independent management consultant.  He travelled extensively and worked for very large organizations teaching them about organizational behavior and organizational change.)

Our house was bigger and the yard was HUGE.  I hated my school.  It was a lovely school, I'm sure, but very traditional.  They didn't know what to do with me.  I was at least two grades ahead in all subjects.  So they just put me in regular classes and made me turn in work that I was way past.  I was bored and angry that we had moved away from all my friends.  But I had a friend from church, and we started hanging out, and I started to become friends with her friends, and I wasn't so lonely. I still hated my classes though. 

I went to the junior high and high school and graduated in 1984.  (Yes, that is almost 30 years ago.  I'm SO old.) I was a very good student and I had excelled in science in high school, and I scored a perfect score on my ACTs in science (with a high score on the others.) I applied to 3 colleges - University of Nebraska, Boston College, and Brigham Young University.  I got a full scholarship offer to University of Nebraska, a 4 year tuition scholarship offer to Boston College, and no scholarship offer to BYU.  So, of course, I picked BYU.  (I have told my children that if they get a scholarship, TAKE IT!) I was very excited to go far away to school.  I signed up to live in the dorms as soon as I could. And then, in July, my dad told us that he had decided to take a job as a Vice President at a university.  Which university? Brigham Young University. 

So even though my parents ended up living just miles from campus, I still kept my plans and moved into the dorms.  I did a year at Brigham Young University.  The Boy died 3 weeks into my freshman year and I just never quite recovered that whole year.  (This is when I was a microbiology major.) And it just didn't seem like a good fit for me. 

So for my sophomore year, I decided to go to Dixie College and study Creative Writing.  The school was a good fit for me at the time, but after a year, it seemed too small, and despite my excellent grades, I was self-destructing at a scary pace, and I knew I needed to move on.  Or in my case, back to Provo. 

And so began the "lost years" - I spent the next few years - signing up for and dropping classes at BYU.  And taking a few classes at the local community college.  I changed my major several times - English, Spanish, Communications.  I had an eating disorder that had started when I was 15 and I was hospitalized when I was 16.  But things really didn't get a lot better, I just got better at hiding it.  For awhile.  And then, I didn't.  I was hospitalized again when I was 20.  I remember I spent Christmas in the hospital that year.  And then I got out and was working odd jobs and wandering and wondering if this was all there was to life. 

And to be honest, I spent time drinking.  Heavily.  But I would never drive drunk.  No, I would wait until my roommates left for the evening and drink for an hour or two, take my empties out to the dumpster, and then go to bed.  No one had any idea.  This wasn't the first time that I had turned to alcohol.  From the time I was 15, I would drink off and on (always until I was terribly drunk) and during my senior year of high school, I had drank most weekends for the first few months of the year. Oh,and during my entire year down at Dixie College.

But at some point, it was getting difficult to afford things, and alcohol, and I'd decided that I just wasn't the college type.  So I decided to get a job.  I hadn't finished college, and so my options were limited, but I could type well.  I saw a job listed in the paper for a Records Clerk at the police department.  And so applied.  And got it. 

I was still drinking every night for the first few months that I worked there, but I had become friends with one of the officers and one day, he showed up after my roommates had left.  He said that he had a feeling that he would find me like that.  He said that it wasn't worth it.  He said that I had my life ahead of me and that whatever was hurting me so much wasn't going to be helped by drinking.  (I didn't agree with him at the time.  I had been depressed for most of the 3 or 4 years before this and couldn't see that my life would ever get any better.) But there was something about the way he said it (well, and the fact that he kept tabs on me for the next couple months) were enough to break the cycle.  Well, at least for a few years, but more on that later. 

And I worked there for the next few years.  I slowly got a little happier.  Not a lot, but a little. My dad told me that they (my parents and my youngest brother) were moving to Bloomington, Illinois.  My dad had accepted a position as the chair of the Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University.  It never really crossed my mind to move with them.  I visited once or twice a year for the next couple years. 

But by now, I was starting to wonder if working at a police department was all I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  And I decided I wanted to finish my degree.  But I didn't want to finish at BYU.  I wanted to start somewhere fresh. I decided to meet with someone from the English department at University of Utah.  I applied and I was accepted.  I went to meet with my advisor and I took a tour of the campus.  I loved it.  But something was nagging at me.  I figured that it was just the fact that I was back on a campus again.  I was going to start the next semester.  Meanwhile, I had a visit scheduled to see my parents.  So I went back, and while I was there, my dad said something about me going to the University of Utah (which, by the way, is where he got HIS bachelors degree) and he said "I think you would like it there, but I think you should check out the English department here.  I think you might like it.  Oh, and I've arranged a meeting with the chair.  Tomorrow morning."

Well, this is long enough for one post.  I'll do part 2 in a few days. 

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