Of Januaries and Februaries past

Packing seems to have temporarily shut down my powers of writing (that, and every spare moment, I’m obsessively reading Georgette Heyer). But I’ve been meaning to invite you on a little time-travel excursion, ever since the year began.

As you may know, I’ve been blogging since the spring of 2001, when my college-freshman self decided to jump on the bandwagon and join LiveJournal (not Xanga, which I found somehow less literate). Every now and then I revisit those archives and it’s always entertaining and illuminating. Here are some glimpses of me in years past, accompanied by milestones.

2000 August. I begin college at UC Berkeley.

2001 April. I begin keeping what I call a web journal at satsumabug.livejournal.com (I didn’t like the term “weblog.”) Eventually it looks like this:

LJ screenshot

2002 January 30. I write: “Anyone who has been reading this journal for a couple of months, or who has talked to me within that time, is probably aware that last semester I went through an English-major-related crisis and decided I probably didn’t want to major in English anymore. Now I don’t even know if I want to be a student of English anymore…” I soon drop my English courses and switch my major to History.

2003 February 4. I write: “Last Friday Erik and I went to a concert at the SF Symphony… I’d never been a huge fan of La Mer, perhaps because it’s one of those works that just doesn’t translate well to recordings. So I didn’t quite know what to expect. When it first started, though, I felt immediately that however amazing Ravel had been, he just couldn’t top Debussy for sheer genius. I prostrate myself before his brilliance. The first movement of the Debussy is… words fail me. I can’t describe it, but I was filled with joy. And the last movement was a fabulous crashing finale… I floated out of Davies Symphony Hall, though my urge was to run. I had that wonderful feeling one gets every once in a while, of being able to speed across the world without one’s toes ever touching the ground, of being able to run and jump and dance for hours without weariness, in a state of careless ecstacy, finally coming to a halt in a blissful heap of sleepfulness.”

2004 January. I write several entries about my modern dance class, then on the 30th, post a photo of myself (in my apartment) after a particularly fun session with a guest teacher.

Lisa post-dance, 2004

2004 September. I begin the History PhD program at UCLA.

2005 January 24. I write: “I think this is shaping up to be the quarter of writing. I’m taking a creative writing class that is forcing and encouraging me to write fiction for the first time in a decade, and I am blogging more frequently and at greater length. (Also, I have committed to writing a chapter of a textbook by the end of this summer, but as I haven’t started yet it remains to be seen whether this task will contribute to this being the Quarter of Writing.) This is both good and bad. It’s good, obviously, because writing like anything else requires practice in order to be done well, and with all the writing I do these days I can just see my skills improving all the time. I write faster and more creatively, and with greater facility, and that makes me feel very happy and accomplished. On the other hand, it’s wreaking havoc with my life. In fact my life is rapidly becoming writing…”

2006 February 1. In a post describing my dislike for grad school, I write: “I used to think, when I was younger, that once I became an adult I would start to have everything figured out. I think it was only after I turned eighteen, then twenty, then twenty-two, that I gradually came to realize that – alas! – we never really reach that point of knowing…”

2006 May. Erik and I are married in San Jose.

2007 February 1. I write — forgotten precursors to what I’d thought were new realizations of 2012!: “I’ve realized lately that as extroverted as I can be sometimes, if left to my own devices, I get very comfortable in my own world. I get into this zone where I don’t reach out, don’t seek company, stay at home and just really get cozy in my little one-bedroom shell. This ability to be content in my solitary existence allowed me to live without a roommate for several years, and kept me from going completely insane in the isolating world of grad school. It’s a good little mechanism and I’m glad I’ve got it…

“I always go back out into the world again, though, eventually. And thank goodness I do, because otherwise I’d just become a totally withdrawn person, the all-too-common grad student hermit. And whenever I do reach back out to those around me, I’m always so surprised and glad to find that people are really worth knowing and talking to. It sounds so weird to hear myself say this, but it’s true; I constantly forget how much communication affirms our humanity.”

2007 fall. After receiving my MA, I apply for a yearlong leave of absence from the PhD program, from which I never return. I began working as an Adult Literacy Coordinator for the LA Public Library.

2008 January 29. In a post about no longer being in grad school, I write: “The truth is — at risk of sounding like a sad little playground outcast — I just don’t feel like I belong anywhere. And I can’t help but wonder whether that will always be true. I’m not a grad student anymore, and I’m glad not to be. But having once been one, I don’t feel like I can be a ‘civilian’ either! The things I want in my life just don’t seem to line up with anybody else’s life that I’ve seen, and that makes me feel weird and alone. What does an intelligent, creative, independent person do with herself when she doesn’t go into an academic/professional discipline? I don’t know! Sometimes I wish I had some role models…”

2008 December. Erik talks me into moving back to Bay Area; I quit my literacy job.

2009 January 31. I write, in a post that still applies perfectly today: “Grad school has proved to be the many-headed Hydra of my physical existence — in that the sheer amount of paper generated by my studies somehow magically continues to grow, even now that I’ve been out of the program for a year and a half. The Hydra, if you remember from mythology, was the beast that was very difficult to kill because each time you cut off one of its many heads, two more grew back in its place. Seriously, I think my grad school papers multiply every time I try to declutter them.” I went through the exact same process again recently, with that same bin of papers and many of the same books!

2009 January. I begin keeping a private art blog at satsumaart.wordpress.com.

2009 February. We move to San Pablo.

2010 January 21. I share a drawing I made of a dream. I think this may be the first time I drew something like this: comic-like, but without panels.

Mushroom dream, 2010

2010 August. I stop updating my LiveJournal, making the WordPress blog (this one!) my primary.

2011 February 2. I write about the challenge of memoir.

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