Monday, January 02, 2012

Welcome to Memoir Mondays!

So I've decided to write my memoirs and post them, one chapter at a time, every Monday. Right now you are probably asking yourself:

If you aren't famous, why are you writing a memoir? And why should anyone care?

I'm writing for two reasons. First, it's damned enjoyable. Those who claim to write have to actually write stuff, and this is my stuff. Second, I'm not a sharing sort of person, and that isn't always good for me. So I'm sharing.

As to why anyone should care...no reason, really. However, this isn't intended to be just a series of tales about my life. Each chapter will, I hope, focus on what my experiences have taught me about myself and the world, and I hope that others who have learned the same lessons – by whatever means – will relate and enjoy.

The tales you are about to read – assuming you choose to read them – will sometimes be funny or cheerful, and occasionally depressing and dark. Some of the stories are easy to share, and others I tell only with trepidation. At the end you might think better of me, or you might wonder how the hell I function without medication. In either case, you'll know me better. Oh, and these chapters aren't written in any specific order; we'll jump back and forth in my life as the mood strikes me, but I promise that they're written so's you won't get confused

Let's get to it.

***

Making Trouble


I imagine this will surprise those who know me, but I used to think I was shy. I wasn't really, not inside, but for a number of reasons I was strongly invested in not making a fuss or causing anyone any trouble. At that age I didn't believe that I might be worth some trouble, or that a little fuss can be good for the soul, but...well, there it was.

When I was an undergraduate, I had an American history class that I despised because the teacher took attendance at every class, in the form of a sign-in sheet he'd pass around the room. I told myself I was too shy to object, but I also had a defiant streak and I simply despised being treated like a child, which is how that sign-in sheet struck me. After all, I had paid my tuition; if I skipped class it was my loss and my business, right?

I was complaining about this to a coworker, who advised me simply, "Steal it."

Me: [goggles at her]

Coworker: "When the sign-up sheet comes around, just stick it in a notebook or something, and when class is over walk out with it."

Me: "What will I do if the professor goes up and down the aisles, asking who last had it? The person who handed it to me will point that out, and I'm caught."

Coworker: "If that happens, just say, 'I don't have it.'"

Me: "But...but..."

Coworker: "Look, if you stick to your story, there's nothing he can do. Just keep saying, 'I don't have it', and he'll give up. Don't worry about it."

I was fearful of taking what I considered a big risk, but I had this strong need to somehow assert my independence. The fear and need battled it out for a day or two, until the next class saw me secretly stuffing the sign-in sheet in my textbook. Despite my coworker's advice, of course I did worry about it. In fact, I was so consumed with worry I could barely even understand the lecture. When class was over I nearly sprinted out of that room, and as I did I heard the professor ask, "Who has the sign-in sheet?"

That gave me a start, and a part of me became convinced that: a) the professor would somehow suspect I was behind the disappearance of the sign-in sheet; and b) chase me down for a pat-down to find it. Turning sharply into the Kingdom of Crazy, I ducked into a corner of the busy corridor and pulled the sheet out of my backpack and stuffed it into my shoe, "reasoning" that a pat-down would not extend to my footwear. As I limped away at maximum speed, it suddenly struck me that the crafty schoolteacher, enraged by this theft, might indeed think to search my shoes. That's when I departed the Kingdom of Crazy and veered directly into the People's Republic of Paranoia. I ran into the restroom, shut myself in a stall, and stuffed the sign-in sheet into my underwear. See, I had this clever notion that the professor, fearing accusations of impropriety, would never dare to violate my Fruit-of-the-Looms. Congratulating myself on my canniness, I sat through my next two classes getting paper cuts in unmentionable areas. (Let me tell you that was the only time I ever regretted choosing briefs over boxers.)

Needless to say, the professor did not chase me round the Moons of Nibia, and round the Antares Maelstrom, and through perdition's flames to get back his sign-up sheet. Next class he announced he was going to keep a better eye out and then he went back to his life, which I should have done seconds after I pocketed the thing. I proudly displayed the stolen paper to my coworker, wisely leaving out the underwear-stuffing part. She never asked to hold the paper, which now makes me wonder if she guessed the part I left out.

It took me a long time to realize why I got so nutty about a stupid sign-in sheet, and I now know that it had nothing to do with shyness. I was afraid to have to face that professor and lie through my teeth, because that was crossing the line. I wasn't very good at line-crossing in those days, you see, because that causes a fuss, and that wasn't something I wanted to do. It took me a long time to learn that having needs and taking chances isn't really trouble; it's human. We have needs, and we're allowed to express them, even if we're afraid to do so. Especially if we're afraid.

So now I cross that line. It's a risk, but I've (finally) learned that keeping my head down all of the time is even more dangerous. I could have saved myself some worry – and some paper cuts – if I'd realized that twenty-two years ago. And telling that professor, "I stole that sign-in sheet you lost. Don't make me sign in for a class I already paid for, all right?" would have made a way better story.

2 Comments:

Blogger Amy McWeasel said...

This is a wonderful thing. I may blatantly steal your idea & attempt a Monthly Memoir.

"In either case, you'll know me better." I absolutely look forward to the opportunity to get to know you better with these vignettes.

1:46 PM  
Blogger greengreyeyes said...

Wonderful! I would have been so afraid I'd have torn it to bits and flushed it down three different toilets.

8:38 PM  

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