Sorting my life from 1988-2004

my-life-from-1983-2004-unorganized-in-a-tote

This morning I pulled out my old plastic bin of journals from our shed in the backyard. I’m beginning the daunting task of sorting them with the intention to write about the epic trip we took across the country in the summer of 1988. That trip. It almost needs no other title. It was the trip from hell but for me as a very young and naive sixteen-year-old with no expectations and only a sense of adventure, I don’t look at that trip with bad memories at all. It was an adventure of a lifetime. It was a coming-of-age story. I took it all in with wide open fearful eyes and it formed me to be who I am today.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to ever really truly capture what it was for me. Unfortunately, my memories of the important details are hazy and only the spikes of drama really come into clear crisp view and those stories I can’t always tell because I need to protect my loved ones who are involved. I can’t share their stories for them and I probably don’t even remember them properly if I could. I just remember what I remember. My memory is not like a movie. It’s like a collection of pictures and feelings and glimpses. It’s a mess.

Later in my twenties I interviewed a poet once when I was working as a student writer for the Alumni Association Newsletter at Cal State Hayward. Quick tangent: What a funny job that was. It was work/study but I think it was pretty much a charity job—meaning I was desperately poor and the school figured out a way to help me. Anyway, I hated interviewing people (I was a painfully shy introvert) and I was the worst when I had no deadline. I’d sit at my old clunker of a computer (green letters on a black screen, typing in word perfect) and bang out an article maybe once a month. They pretty much paid me to sit on my butt, answer phones and occasionally file things.

Anyway I interviewed a retired professor who had published a book of poems. That’s mostly what I did, I wrote feature puff pieces on interesting alumni. He was from the Philippines and I remember he had a thick accent. He said to me, “When you write, you don’t have to start at the beginning and go to the end in order. Think of writing as if you were hanging up pieces of scenery on a clothes line. You describe something you remember and hang it up. Then move onto the next memory and hang that one up. Then when you have a bunch of memories you can move those pieces of paper around until it makes a story.”

What great advice that was. So that is what I’m going to do. I’m going to hang up pieces of this trip and not worry too much about the order they are in. I’ll sort that later. The important thing is writing.

Our stories.

I really don’t have anything to say today, not that that has ever stopped me from rambling…  I’m good at filling up space. I’m good at small talk too. Who says that? Everyone usually says they hate small talk. I just think of it as using small talk to get to big talk. I never use small talk as a shield or fakery. I love being a journalist and I just start asking questions and before I know it there’s a story! Everyone has a story. Even me. Duh. Of course I have a story.

I have a few big stories.

My first big story is that trip I went on with my family and my aunt’s family when I was sixteen and we drove across the country in a rented a 32-food RV called The Executive, which we soon renamed “The Execute,” and we broke down in every state. I’ve probably talked about that before. That was a big deal. It was traumatic. I think I might write a whole memoir about that trip someday.

Then there’s the fornication story and how I left my conservative religious background to be excommunicated twice over until I wised up and decided it just wasn’t for me anymore. I’m still living out that story. It’s a hard one.

Then there’s my divorce story and fleeing to the sticks in a rented U-haul truck, just me and Bug. That was a crazy Thelma and Louise story. And then the traumatic two years after that, living in poverty in a broken down mobile home that I loved so much. Oh, remember that huge backyard and the tomatoes? That was so awesome and yet so scary most of the time because I was so afraid of my neighbors. It taught me so much about poverty. But I escaped and I am so much stronger for it. Sometimes Bug and I talk about those years and I treasure our memories that only we two have.

Then of course there is my love story with Payam. That will always go down in my book as the summer sleeper hit that is still unfolding to this day.

Ho hum. I don’t really want to expand on those stories today. Someday.

Don’t you wish we could go on a long long walk and I could listen to your stories? Can you sum up one of your stories in three sentences in the comments? I know that’s a challenge. I’m curious though!