1320, and that's my final offer

Okay... for what it's worth, and I honestly can't think it could be worth all that much, here's the final draft. The purpose of this assignment is so that the instructor can figure out whether the student: (a) is going to be able to write well enough to write for the PLA program, or needs to take a writing course first; and (b) has life skills and/or practical knowledge that can contribute to the desired degree. So, here's my shot at it. --- And no pictures. Boooor-rrriiing ...... but I got it down to 1320 words.



June 25, 2008

High school graduation seemed to me like the gift of a toolbox, and the project was to chisel and sculpt a life of my own. So, the first thing I did was chip off my place in my peer group by taking my dad’s advice to work for a year and figure out what I really wanted to do. I stayed home while “everyone” else went away to college.

My first job was as a temporary worker for the phone company, filling out grid sheets for the data entry people. There was an application, an interview, a typing test, and then a job, complete with a commute on the city bus and clocking in at the start of the work day. I was fascinated by things like office dynamics, the way promotions were supposed to work and the way they actually worked, and the amused irritation in a co-worker’s voice when she told me I “had to” take my breaks because of the union’s rules.

Next, I worked as a checker at a grocery store during a strike. This was not a job I wanted to keep – it wasn’t interesting, and worse than that, I hadn’t chosen it for myself. I got that second job because my dad knew the store manager.

So, after the strike ended, I got my own job. I took the bus to Lloyd Center from our Laurelhurst home, and I started going to every restaurant and retail establishment where I thought I might like to work, and asking them if they were taking applications. At Stevens & Son’s Jewelers they took my application, and asked me when I could start. I said “immediately,” and they said, “How about 2:00?” I called a cab, went home, asked the driver to wait while I changed into clothes more suitable for work, and then went straight back to the jewelry store to clock in. This was the job where I learned about retail display, the difference between good costume jewelry and junk, and adult discretion about adult dramas in the workplace.

That job was enjoyable, but it ended when my dad decided I needed to make more money than I could as a retail clerk. I, who had never even balanced my own checkbook, got my license as a real estate agent. I was not a success.

By the next fall, I began attending a small college in Florida, majoring in Elementary Education, with a minor in English. I loved everything having to do with education “materials and methods,” but I really reveled in things like display and design in classrooms, and in the dynamics between the students and the teacher. During those years, I also acquired a growing certainty that fundamentalist Christianity’s paradigm did not offer me a workable life.

I nearly flunked a couple of courses in my freshman year, and so learned first-hand that learning is inextricably linked to emotional stability. I also began to see myself through the eyes of people who knew nothing of my girlhood, and so figured out that I was smarter than I’d thought, mentally tougher than I’d thought, and braver than I’d thought. I auditioned for and got into the advanced choir, and accompanied voice lessons as a pianist. I took part in student leadership, performed recitations at all-school programs, and started to feel my natural abilities to inspire groups of people. During my second year, my home church splintered, and I learned then that such episodes are never really about things as esoteric as “doctrine.” It was then that I began to see the similarities instead of only the differences in religious expressions, and I began to study these things for myself.

After graduation, in July of 1983, I got married. During that first summer together as a married couple, we were the camp counselors for the first through sixth graders of the church’s Family Camp. We lived with, played with, ate with, and taught those kids all week, and went home exhausted. But we hadn’t run out of ideas or enthusiasm for a minute of the camp.

For the next two years, we worked in my dad’s neighborhood coffee store, and I worked as a substitute teacher while my husband took Greek at a local seminary. Our first child was born in September of 1984, at the Northwest Naturopathic College. During this first pregnancy and childbirth, I began in earnest to research and discover the various aspects of traditional herbal and homeopathic medicines and natural health. Of course, the topics of children, child-rearing, religion, home, and family were all subjects of research as well. And since we had “more time than money,” I began in earnest a lifelong habit of making things rather than buying them. I have a handmade life.

In the fall of 1985, we moved to southern California, where my husband attended seminary, and I taught second grade for a year, then gave birth to our second child and took a year off from teaching, and then taught eighth grade English for a year. During this time, I was involved with the group of seminary wives, and helped to organize presentations and gatherings.

After seminary, I gave birth to our third child, and we moved to Seattle, where I worked as a local sales representative for the children’s magazine, Highlights for Children. I also worked as a substitute teacher, and this began my personal research into dyslexic and multi-sensory learning. During one of the grad school summers, I used what I had learned about dyslexia, and taught my adult brother-in-law basic literacy skills so that he could go to college.

In the summer of 1995, we moved permanently to my husband’s family home in Stevenson, Washington, where I completed my kids’ home schooling until they each went either to community college or high school. Here, I worked for awhile at the local liquor store, where I took inventory, made purchasing orders, and had fun with the display merchandising. I now work as a substitute Assistant at the public library, where I once served a term as the president of the local chapter of The Friends of the Library. There they know me as the sub who does display work and is good at fast research. I know them to be my natural companions in a shared fervent love of books and of information of all kinds.

My personal studies have taken a bent toward an understanding and working knowledge of ancient medical and health traditions, and I have continued to be fascinated by human and societal development, especially in the arenas of family, education, and religion. In my more public life, I am now a past master at organizing programs and gatherings for adults, as well as classes and programs of all kinds for all ages of children.

Because I have had a husband in grad school, have educated my own kids, and have been a personal resource for several adult friends who have been students, I have done a fair amount of research for other people, as well as tutoring, coaching, proofreading and word processing. Along the way, my husband and I also acquired a publishing company, in which we write, print, bind, and sell religious education materials. For this and for other things, I do design and copy work in various kinds of publications.

Little by little, chip by chip, my life has taken shape. Compliance for the sake of compliance or for the sake of rewards has been chipped away. This sculpture of mine is far from finished. Apparently, the materials I work with are: a conscious practice of a traditional religion; service to other people where occasional need arises, as well as in private and classroom teaching; and a personal interest in writing, reading, research, natural medicine and health, human development, group dynamics, graphic design, music, and arts and crafts. It is, I think, enough to be going on with.


mario said...

Thank you for posting this. A marvelous chronicle and a marvelous life. Once again, you are the master of the analogy/metaphor. Chipping. Tremendous.

Stephanie said...

Thanks, Mario. I'm soaking up all your generous encouragement like a sponge. There's a bit of a pacing issue here, but I've decided to stop fussing at it. May something wonderful happen to you today!