Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Thirteen Words, Thirteen Snapshots

(This is a homework assignment from School Days , brought to me (and you) by Travelin' Oma. )

Baby. I am born in a modest home in Sandy, Utah on February 18, 1977. Yes, in the house, with my dad and aunt supervising the birth. I am born with no complications, round-cheeked and healthy. There's a picture taken that day with blanketed me held in my dad's arms.  He is wearing a striped shirt and has side burns.  He is thin and young, only 34. My mom is 34, too, and looks quite a bit like a young Liza Minelli but prettier. They have moved around a lot, including a three-year stint in Samoa, but they have come to Utah to stay.  New baby. New house. New business. Time to put down some roots.

Sunshine. It's not long before I learn my place in the family. My role is to perpetuate happiness. I make funny faces for pictures and wear a t-shirt that says, "I must hurry and catch up with the others for I am their leader." (My parents love this shirt and talk about it for thirty years. Do you have a t-shirt you've talked about for thirty years?) I have a head full of curls and a one-dimple grin. I like making my family smile and develop quite an identity around this idea. Occasionally this is a problem when I feel responsible to make people happy and uncomfortable expressing sadness.  But overall, I like my place. My favorite season is summer. Go figure.

Loud. I am precocious and frequently loud. And often obnoxious. I sometimes get in trouble in school for talking too much. I am always talking at church. And at home. I constantly want to be included with my older siblings and their conversations. I have many things to say, but nobody seems to want to listen. HOW ABOUT IF I SAY IT LOUDER? I am loud with my younger brothers, too.  I say a lot of loud, bossy things. If they don't listen, I sit on them.

Student. School is easy for me. It never occurs to me that it could be difficult for some. One day my dad sits with me on the couch in the living room and shows me my Iowa test scores. He shows me the little dot on the graph that represents me and the line that represents the national average. He tells me that I am very, very smart. I think I have made him proud. I feel good. I like making him proud. I never forget that moment.

Boys. I am in middle school. I meet two boys who will change my story. After a failed middle school romance, one will try to ruin my life for several years, with moderate success. The other, my honors classmate and favorite conversationalist, will prove himself as my only true friend and the love of my life. When I am fourteen years-old, I know that I will marry him, but I never say that to anyone because I know how ridiculous it sounds. But I know. know. His name is Ryan.

Actress. I pull up in my car to the theatre and enter through the back doors into the green room. I get a free Dr. Pepper from the soda fountain and say hello to my fellow cast mates. I like to be with them. I rarely acknowledge to myself how miserable high school is, how much I dread going each day, how I wish to be invisible, and how good it feels to spend a few hours each week pretending to be someone else. And be applauded for it. I don't give this extra-curricular activity enough credit.

Lost. I am in my first semester at BYU. I have no idea how socially damaged I am after my experiences in middle school and high school. I am suspicious of every potential friendship and feel nothing in common with my roommates. My church experience is bizarre. I am supposed to meet my ward for prayer on Sunday nights and hug a boy I don't know each time. I am horrified. I want more than anything to love college, but I hate it. I hate this weirdo city. The only thing I like is my writing course. I move back home after nine months and drop out of school after another semester.

Wife. I am twenty-years-old and married. People keep saying that I'm young, but I think I am old enough. I think I am mature. In some ways I am. Being married to Ryan is the easiest thing I have ever done. We have loved each other for so long. We have waited for each other for so long. It is a sweet relief to start our lives together, even though I know my family is somewhat skeptical of our success. But I'm not.

Mother. Everybody warns me that adjusting to marriage is hard, but it isn't. So, having a baby will be easy too, I figure. We don't wait very long to get pregnant. I am wrong about this adjustment. We bring Christian home from the hospital and I love him and fear him all at once. I take a drive with Ryan a few days later when my sister offers to babysit. "I don't want you to think I'm a bad person," I say, "but WHAT HAVE WE DONE?" We figure it out together, day by day. We take our time before we have a second baby. We are getting smarter, even though I'm still grateful for all the decisions I made when I thought I was old and mature.

Student (Revisited). I am twenty-four years-old and working full-time to put Ryan through graduate school. I have a years-long regret about dropping out of college. I have been telling myself that I will go back to school once life slows down. Then, I have a moment of enlightenment and understand an eternal truth: life never slows down. I enroll in school and spend the next four years chipping away part-time at a degree while I continue working full-time. I finish. I want to feel proud of myself, but I don't. I experience a feeling of relief. I have taken care of unfinished business.

Writer. I have taken every writing course offered. There are no others to take. I miss being able to write and share with my class mates. I get a crazy idea to start a writing group. I take flyers around my neighborhood and ask people to join. I feel exhilarated and embarrassed all at once. I am shocked when my neighbor friends show up, pens in hand, and even more shocked when they come back. I fall in deep, true love with writing, as well as the process of writing. My writing group meets monthly for several years. I make new and lasting friendships. I begin to heal socially. I start a blog. I apply for an honest-to-goodness writing job. I get it. I am in awe.

Sponsor. On the rare occasion that somebody asks me what I do for a living (Why do we only ask men what they do for a living?), I say, "I'm sponsoring a graduate student." Ryan is in his eighth and final year of his doctoral program. The program is intense and though he has been incredibly successful, he is cursed with the feeling that he might be kicked out of the program at any moment for failure to be smart enough. (Par for the course, right, my PhD friends out there?) He begins an agonizing process of applying and interviewing for jobs all over the country. He is going to be a professor. It is impossible for me to imagine life after school. It is all we have ever known. I wonder what I will do with myself once I am no longer the primary breadwinner. I dream of writing a book.

Transplant. Sunlight is coming in the window and I open my eyes. I see the leafy trees outside the window. I am in love with the trees, the landscape, this spot of geography that suits me like my favorite red hoodie. I walk downstairs and make breakfast for Christian and help him tame his inherited head of curls before he walks out to meet his friends at the bus stop. I wake Max and fix him breakfast. An hour later, the kids are gone, three rounds of breakfast are in the sink, and I join Ryan in our yellow home office. I make a list of things to do today, divided in sections: work, home, book. I rarely cross everything off the list, but it doesn't upset me. I'll make a new list tomorrow.

28 comments:

Travelin'Oma said...

You are a great writer. I love everything you post.

Marta's 7th grade boyfriend gave her a t-shirt that she wore forever, and it was perfect for her. It said, "Help! I'm talking and I can't shut up!" I'm laughing out loud as I type it!

crissy said...

Love it. You're a great writer.

Kami said...

I always knew you were the leader. Becky is our leader. Secretly I want to be the leader. ;)

Excellent Writing as always.

Christy said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Lindy-Lou said...

I'm sorry you felt compelled to entertain us. What we do to our kids! But I think it has served you well. You are sunshine. You are hilarious. You are wise. You learned compassion and empathy through the **** you went through. I'm ever so grateful that you married Ryan. I can't believe you agreed to let me be your mom. You did,...didn't you? ;)

Angie said...

Gorgeous.

Annie said...

Your life is inspiring to me. You seem brave, not afraid of life. I've always been too afraid to write even though I want to.

Everyone will love your book.

Soul-Fusion said...

loved this.

Dede said...

This was so much fun to read!

Jesse C said...

You're an extraordinary person. I really loved this post.

Suzie said...

Oh, Tiffany. Didn't think I could love you anymore but now I do.

Ella said...

What a beautiful life - the good and the hard. I love how you see and express yourself so vividly. What a fabulous writer you are!!!

Emily said...

I love this so, so much. Your writing is beautiful-- it brings us along with you, perfectly. (And yes, I live in constant fear that my department will finally figure out how stupid I am, and will kick me out of my PhD program. Par for the course, for sure.)

Leslie said...

I love you! I love your writing! You make me a better person when I'm around you. I want to be around you more. Thanks for blogging, so I can have regular contact with you!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful writing by a truly beautiful person!

Love You!
Heidi

Lance said...

You MUST be crying or laughing out loud when you write this stuff, because I sure am. Truly heart felt and great writing.

Mari said...

loved it! You make reading so fun--

Becky said...

So well done. I loved reading this- I love getting to know you better through your blog! I loved reading all of the snapshots of your life- so glad for each one of them because they have made you who you are today, and I love who you are!

Kim said...

"Mother" was the first thing I knew about you. You mentioned it in F & T meeting at church and I thought you were hilarious. Good job mama!

Christy said...

I love how the geography reminds you of your favorite hoodie, I so get that!

Christy said...

ok, I'm back, there is just so many things that I love about this post, like how you described your place as sunshine, it's so you! I learned that on our early morning walks. Always lightening the mood in a heavy conversation with witty comments & obervations. It's one of the things that I love/miss the most about you!

Token Asian Friend said...

That, my dear, was very moving.

Kellybee said...

The one thing that struck me about this, was your line about how life never slows down, and if you want to do something, just do it now. There is never a perfect time for anything. That's just life! I wish I could have learned this lesson earlier in life! I'm so happy for you that you went back to school and finished for yourself! That must be a great feeling! I loved this post Tiff!

Artax said...

Thanks for this great post. And yup, actually I still feel like I will be kicked out. Is it just me? Or maybe my field? Is Ryan over that?

MiaKatia said...

I hope you never get tired of hearing this, but your writing moves me. I love to read what you write. You are inspiring.

bside_ink said...

I love this post! I love your story! :]

tiburon said...

If I could marry your writing I would.

Omgirl said...

How incredibly fun to read.

I consider myself introspective and I enjoy writing. But this just might be out of my league.

I bow down to you.

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