So we are up to 1990-ish. So there I was, sitting in the English chairperson's office. I really was just doing this to appease my dad. I mean, I was accepted and everything at University of Utah. But one of the reasons that I was even going back to school was that I had recently met someone who was working for WordPerfect (Anybody else remember when WordPerfect was king?). She said she was working as a technical writer. I asked her what she did, and I thought it sounded like something that I would like. I asked her what she got her degree in and she said English. I already had taken a couple classes towards a degree in English, so I might as well start back at that, so that's what I planned to major in at University of Utah.
The chair comes in and we exchange pleasantries and then he offers to give me a tour of some of the classrooms. And then he said "I hear that you are interested in technical writing. We have two professors here that specialize in technical writing and we allow undergrads to take most of the technical writing classes." And then we went and talked to one of the technical writing professors. And then we walked around campus. And I didn't get that nagging feeling. It felt right.
So I went back and undid my acceptance at University of Utah and wound up things at my job. And you know, I must have drove my car from Utah to Illinois, but I have absolutely no recollection of that. I do know that I didn't have much when I got here. It was amazing. I was a 25 year old adult that had been on her own for years and yet, I could get everything I owned in a 4 door hatchback.
And so I came to Illinois State University and I spent the next two years, from 1991 to 1993, mostly happy. I met some wonderful young adults at church and we would hang out at Denny's most Fridays nights. In fact, before my sister moved here a year later, this included hanging out often with my now-brother in law. :) (We even went on a date once. Well, we went to a movie. And even then, before he even met my sister, it was like dating my brother.)
Oh, and another sort of funny about this time. I often went to the university library computer lab to type my papers. There were two guys that were on staff there that were often there when I was. One of them, years later, was my boss when I was a trainer, and the other one was Mr. Simple. I remembered my boss was one of the workers, but I have no real recollection of Mr. Simple from those days beyond the fact that I do remember that there were two guys there.
And so I graduated in 1993 and got a job as a technical writer in downtown Chicago. I lived out in the suburbs and I took the train in. I felt like I'd arrived. Well, sort of. Because I was originally hired as an summer intern, and then I was hired as a consultant. My hourly rate was uh, not that great. But I really liked my job and I hoped that I would get hired as a regular employee. But a year went by and they still hadn't hired me on. I didn't feel brave enough yet to try and get another technical writing job in Chicago, so I decided to go back to graduate school in technical writing.
I applied to and got accepted at University of Southern California, Rennselaer University, and Illinois State University. ISU was definitely my third choice - just because I'd been there/done that and wanted to experience something new. But this time, I followed the money. ISU was the only one to offer me a scholarship and an assistantship with a stipend. So I went. And I decided to live in the graduate dorms. I wanted to have a room of my own, but I wanted to be close to campus.
So August 19th, 1994, I was moving in to the dorms and this cute boy holds the door open for me. It was Mr. Simple.
He lived in the dorms too, and he was an English grad student too. All of the English grad students started hanging out both at the dorms and outside of the dorms. And here's where things started to fall apart again. I was unhappy with the program. And to be honest, I was a little overwhelmed. I'd always been a great student, but I'd never had to think critically. And now I did. So I turned to my old stand-by: alcohol. I drank almost every night. At least this time, it was with friends. We just walked to and from the bars and so there was that too. But this time, it was worse in some ways too. I was drinking to the point of blacking out - two or three times a week. And by November, I was dating Mr. Simple. I stopped drinking for good, thankfully, by February of 1995, and I also, after 14 years, stopped my eating disorder. And I also got engaged to Mr. Simple. At this point, I knew that I wouldn't finish my masters in English, at least not at Illinois State University. On August 19th, 1995, a year to the day after I met him, I married Mr. Simple. We married at a church here in this city, and had our reception at the ballroom in the student center at ISU.
We moved into an apartment across town. Mr. Simple was finishing up his last year of his masters. We were in that bad car accident. I was working as a receptionist. We were poor. And then, in April of 1996, I got an e-mail from my boss from my job in Chicago and he wanted to offer me a full-time position. And we went.
We lived in the suburbs and I took the train in, again. It was great, mostly. Except that Mr. Simple was working as a technical writer for a totally different company and didn't like it. We missed our friends and family that lived here. We didn't see each other that much because I had an hour train ride from downtown to our apartment.
So we started looking for jobs back in central Illinois. I got a job first - as a technical writer for a company in Springfield and started working there in late 1997. After a month or so, Mr. Simple got a job as a news reporter for a radio station in Decatur (He got his bachelors in broadcast communications.) And after a few months, he was promoted to news director and we had to move to Decatur. My job was fine, but I was not. I'd had my first miscarriage shortly after we moved to Springfield and had spent all of 1998 depressed and just wanting to get pregnant again. I was obsessed, to put it mildly.
Oh, and that boss of mine? The one that worked with Mr. Simple at the Library? When I started dating Mr. Simple, I realized that they were good friends. He now worked at ISU and he ran the computer training program. It was now February of 1999. I was newly pregnant with Flower. And my husband's friend had decided he needed someone who could write training curriculum and maybe teach a class or two. He called me and asked if I might be interested in applying. I was, and I did. And I got it. Mr. Simple got a job as a news reporter at a radio station in Bloomington. (He wouldn't do this long. By the time Flower was two months old, Mr. Simple would have a job as the public safety officer at the fire department - a job he held for over 10 years.)
We moved to a two bedroom condo in this city in 1999. And moved to our home in this city in 2002. Flower was born in 1999. Jelly Bean was born in 2001. Super was born in 2004. And Christopher was born and died in 2008. He is buried at a cemetery here. My children were all born at the same hospital. My (living) children have all gone to the same elementary school. I have friends that I've known since I've moved here in 1991, and many friends that I met when we moved back here in 1999. I went back to school, at ISU of course, and finished my masters degree in 2005. Not in English, but in Training and Development. I opened my preschool here. We've seen many, many houses built here since 1999. We've seen buildings torn down and buildings built on campus. At some point or another, every member of my family: my parents, my older brother, my sister, and my younger brother, have lived in this city. I worked as a trainer here for almost 5 years. I opened my preschool here. I started living a simpler life here. I started doing Simply Living In The City here. I have lived, and not just resided but really experienced life, for almost half of my life in this city. There were many times that I thought that I might want to move. Far away. Have a new adventure in Montana. Or Texas. Or Vermont. But Mr. Simple wanted to stay here. And so we stayed. And as the years have gone by, I've learned that, if I was going to pick a place to live for 20+ years, Bloomington/Normal, Illinois is a very good place to be.
Postcards from Pennsylvania
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