Monday, August 28, 2006

In which I consider the past

You've Changed 60% in 10 Years

You've done a good job changing with the times, but deep down, you're still the same person.
You're clothes, job, and friends may have changed some - but it hasn't changed you.

A timely quiz-thing, as I'm feeling a little past-sick. Ten years ago, I would have given anything to have the summer off from everything. I had to take a quick peek at my old resume, but in the summer of '96, I was moving from my job at a tiny media-production company (where I made my on-camera debut [and finale] as a presenter on a sad little show called Internet! [which my insane boss insisted on calling "Internet quotation mark!"] that was shown on, like, four PBS stations) to a job as a tech writer, kinda, at a credit-card processing place, where I learned to do all manner of desktop-publishing madness in Word, of all things. But at least I was out of retail hell, so I was happy with my employment situation.

I'm pretty sure that I had also just started back at Big State U. (I had dropped out after two disastrous years as a theater major. No, really.), this time as an English major. I didn't know what I was going to do with that degree (I think I had some kind of delusion of being a magazine writer), but I knew from my time at community college that school was at least something I was good at. Plus, I was turning 24, which meant that I no longer had to list parental income on my FAFSA, so I was living large on my Pell grants.

That summer, Carl and I had been living together for two years, and had just moved into our last and best place in Tucson. We were three blocks from campus, in a fairly large duplex with off-street parking, the very height of undergraduate living. It seems like from the time we moved in, there was always someone dropping by. It was fun, being the place everyone hangs out, and I wonder if that kind of place is even possible after college. I miss that incarnation of the Kitten Lounge.

As for me, I think I actually haven't changed that much. If anything, I've become more stuck in my ways and crotchety. I recall being much more anxious ten years ago, but also more impulsive. At the time, I had very little compunction about staying out to all hours at Club Congress, drinking vodka tonics like water, and making Carl call me in sick the next morning. But I also concocted an elaborate cover story when I went in to work again. I'd skip class if the weather was bad, but finally started writing my class papers well in advance of the due date.

The one way I think I've clearly changed in the past decade is that I've discovered my own ambition. One of my dad's big pieces of advice is "Don't float," but that's exactly what I was doing back then. I was happy being presently successful; I had a job, I was in school, I had a good boyfriend and a nice apartment, and that was enough. But I didn't have any plans beyond the next weekend, and it really wasn't until Carl started working on his M.F.A. that I realized that I needed to need something beyond. The plans I made at the time didn't exactly work like I thought they would, and my route to this point has been circuitous, to say the least, but at least I wanted> what I've wound up with.

My friend Andy and I used to have a half-serious joke that we firmly believed that, at some point in the near future, we would be famous. We weren't sure how this would happen, but someone, somewhere, would realize that we were awesome and make the world know about us. And I think this idea of serendipitous success* was what held me back from actually making my own luck. I finally let go of that idea a few years back (though someone should totally discover me and how awesome I am), and that's when I turned the corner on ambition.

And that's how I got here, looking down the barrel of 34. Which looks better when it sounds. I've seen on a couple of academic blogs a call for New School-Year Resolutions, and between that and my birthday (tomorrow! What did you get me?), I'm thinking along those lines. So, next up, resolutions.

*Remind me to tell you sometime about the whole theory I have about The Problem With Kids These Days and the idea of "accidental" celebrity.


Heather said...

Happy Birthday! In celebration, I will go to a homeless shelter. No, seriously, that's what I'll be doing today.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Steph! Even though you've long since given up the lunchbox purse, you're still cool in my book...