About a Last Name

I moved to the South just over a year ago. After spending the first 24 years of my life in the Midwest, it’s been quite an adjustment.

Growing up in the smallest town you can imagine, I was a pretty restless kid. Restless and frustrated and ready to get out. My family is third generation small town, so my whole self was decided for me based on my last name. I hated that. I felt like everyone already thought they knew me before they met me, because of my last name. Being the youngest child didn’t help that. I spent my whole childhood trying to take attention away from my older sister. In fact, I could write a whole series about my relationship with my sister, and I probably will one of these days. I don’t think I could really do my life stories justice without fleshing out that relationship.

But alas, today I’m talking about last names. Back to trying to outshine my sister. If I had been smart, I would’ve completely disregarded everything she did and wholeheartedly rebelled. But I’ve never been much of a rebel.

Instead, I tried to do what she did, but better. Note to any younger sisters out there: that doesn’t work. You can’t out-do someone at their own game. I guess it was hard for me to be different from her because my sister and I are already so much alike. Plus, she already had a pretty good life; I didn’t exactly want to do the complete opposite of her and have a bad life just so that I could be different. And I guess a part of me didn’t know how to create my own path or identity, because I already had my identity decided for me. Because of my last name.

My last name meant that I could do math. It meant that I couldn’t draw. It meant that I was trustworthy. It meant that I wasn’t creative. It meant that I was a good kid. It meant that I was not a threat. Honestly, I never even tried a lot of things because I already knew my sister wasn’t good at them, so that meant I wasn’t either. Or because I had a horrible art teacher all through grade school that refused to give me an A no matter how much effort I put into my work. The only B’s I ever got all through elementary and high school were in his art class. But my sister couldn’t draw either, so I wasn’t surprised at my own lack of artistic capability. I was a math person anyway. Creativity wasn’t my forte.

Then junior year came. And it was while sitting in my AP American Studies class that I realized I loved to write. The first day of class, we had a test over one of our summer readings: The Scarlet Letter. We had to analyze the scaffolding scenes and talk about what they represented in the story. When I first read the book, I had hardly noticed the scaffolding scenes. But that was the prompt and so I frantically searched through pages until I found some meaning. And I actually wrote a pretty damn good essay. While I had always done well in my English classes before then, it wasn’t until that moment that it dawned on me that I might actually be good at writing. That I LIKED writing. I started remembering all the stories I had written as a kid (the ones I had forgotten about once I realized that, according to my last name, I was not a writer). This same phenomenon happened later that year, when I took my first art class since junior high, and I began to recognize that maybe I wasn’t so horrible at that, either. Maybe I could do things even if my last name said otherwise.

I don’t imagine that very many people re-evaluate their entire existence at 17 years old (most people, myself included, haven’t really lived enough by then). And maybe I didn’t completely re-evaluate my existence, but I definitely took a step back to understand that I wasn’t limited by my last name. That I could choose any path I wanted, even if it was different than my sister’s. I began carving that new path by attending the college of my choice. And by discarding the acceptance letter to the college that my sister had attended.

I went to college two hours away from my hometown. Once I graduated, I moved back a little closer, though I was still over an hour away.  I felt like I really “got away” after high school was over, but I guess I didn’t get all that far away. It wasn’t until I moved to the South that I REALLY felt far away. Even the summer I studied abroad in Spain seemed closer than the South feels sometimes. And for the first time in my life, I miss being known for my last name. I miss not having to explain myself to anyone, because everyone already knew who I was. And while I always hated the fact that I couldn’t drive too fast through town without someone calling my parents (because seriously, everyone knew everyone), I kinda wish that there was anybody down here that would recognize my car and me well enough to call my parents (I guess in this scenario they would also need to know my parents in order to make that call).

Last names are a big deal. They bring a reputation all their own, whether you’ve earned it or not. I don’t think I ever appreciated my last name until I didn’t have it anymore, nor did I appreciate being recognized for it until I went to a place where nobody recognized me.

My book

As promised, here is my first page:

I don’t know why I’ve never stayed single. I have considered this phenomenon on more occasions than I care to remember, but somehow I’m still puzzled by it. I’m not exceptionally good-looking, I’m not remarkably unique, and while I like myself a great deal, there are no defining characteristics that make me particularly attractive to the opposite sex.

I started dating my first boyfriend at the age of 13. From then until the age of 24, I was single for a total of 14 months, though not consecutively. The longest consecutive non-relationship period was five months, and even during that time, I was dating pretty heavily.

There was a time in college when I worried that my inability to stay single resulted from a dependence on men. But honestly, I’ve never been conscious of feeling like I needed a man in my life. In fact, I’ve been rather passive about finding a mate. Everything has just kind of fallen into place for me. And to this day, I can’t figure out how I’ve happened upon so many long-term relationships. How did I turn into a serial monogamist? And more importantly, why?

In my quest to find that answer, this book was birthed.

If I had to take a guess, I would venture that my serial monogamism has somewhat resulted from the fact that I Plan B my life. I’m an extremely cautious person and I have lived my life so that I always have a safety net to fall back on. That’s why I never got out of control in high school, why I never attended any crazy parties in college, and why I have two accounting degrees and three years’ experience in public accounting (basically the safest career choice imaginable).

For a large part of my life, I never really took any big risks. I sometimes wonder if being single was just another risk that I was afraid to take.

I would love to tell you that I’ve now got everything figured out. I would love to tell you that, in writing this book, suddenly the skies opened up and everything was made clear (especially if that would entice you to read this all the way through).

What I can tell you is that, regardless of the ill-advised reasons for which I may have gotten into some of these relationships, they were all necessary in my journey to find myself and eventually my husband. And while some of the memories are painful (and were made more painful through the re-living and subsequent re-telling that this book demanded), they were much easier to deal with at my keyboard than inside my head.

The first post

I’ve been debating for the last couple of days about how to make my first splash into the blogosphere. Do I want to appear witty? Or coy? Or intimidating? Or funny? Or a million other adjectives available at my disposal with this handy Shift F7 key?

Since I didn’t come up with funny until my fourth attempt, I’m guessing we can cross that one off the list (although I’m still holding out for witty). I’ve never really been known as the funny one, so I guess I’m ok with that holding true in the virtual world as well. Just as long as people find me sexy. That’s the main reason I started this blog: to have people think I’m sexy. After all, first impressions are a big deal.

This blog is a big deal.

Ok, let me rephrase that. This blog is a big deal FOR ME. For you, it’s really pretty hit or miss. You may enjoy it, you may find me boring, or you may come to passionately hate me after reading about my overtly self-involved tendencies. Although, you chose to read a blog, so I don’t really know what you were expecting beyond self-involvedness…

Back to my debate. I’ve been hoping for an inspiring thought that I could turn into a thrilling blog entry that would really get this thing off on the right track. But so far, the only thing I’ve thought to write about is hair removal, and somehow that just seemed like a bad idea for my FIRST post. This first post is supposed to give you a sense of what I’m about, and I don’t really want that to be hair removal.

I thought it would be a good idea to start my blog with the first chapter (a very rough draft, albeit) of a book I’ve been writing off and on for the past four years. Seeing as how I’ve already written quite a lot in this post, though, I have decided to hold off the book chapter until my next post. I know, the suspense is killing you. I know you’re dying for a sneak peek into this nobody’s book draft. I’m sure there aren’t a thousand other bloggers out there right now toting their book and using their blog as a stepping stone to bigger and better publishers.

That’s not really what I’m about, though. I want you to read the first page of my book because it is quintessentially me. It’s full of made up words and run on sentences and parenthetical side comments. I began writing this book during my senior year of college, following what was easily the hardest break up of my life. And it was through this book that I was reminded of how much I love to write, so it seems fitting that I should talk about it in my blog. I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it, as I’m nowhere near even the halfway point yet, but it’s some of my most honest reflections on my life, which is what I am hoping to continue in this blog. Honest reflections on LIFE. After all, like my tagline says, I’m just trying to get by here. May as well be honest about it.