My beloved roommate Michael has tagged me with some meme that says I need to describe seven things about myself that you couldn’t find out about me online.  Unlike Michael, I should have no trouble, since I tend to post things online only sporadically.  The trouble for me, then, is choosing which of the barely relevant things I should share with the world.

1. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you maybe already have a hint of this, but: I’ve never been a hat person.  I have a HUGE head, and never found hats that fit.  What I didn’t mention on Facebook is that I’ve ALWAYS been fascinated by hats, and old movies where all of the men wore hats (and here we’re talking about fedoras and bowlers and top hats and such; baseball caps just don’t count).  I would love to be someone who could wear a hat, but I worry they make me look ridiculous (besides generally being too small for me).  I also wonder about the religious connotations of hat-wearing: the need to cover one’s head as a sign of respect to God, the idea that such an observance is appropriate outside, but not inside (if God wants your head covered, why does he care where you’re covering it?).picture of me in a hat

Anyway, my point is that hats are interesting, but I’m pretty sure I’m never going to be a regular hat wearer.  I’ve made my peace with that fact, or thought I had, until this —–>

This hat happened to be sitting in the mudroom in my parents house.  No idea where it came from, though it might have belonged to a grandparent or some other older relative?  It could be mine…

2. I wrestled in high school.  In some ways, I consider it a defining experience in my life.  When I hit my growth spurt in 6th or 7th grade, I went from being a round kid to a large, broad shouldered kid.  As I got to be more comfortable in my body, I began to try out an identity as an athlete (if always an INCREDIBLY nerdy athlete).  It wasn’t until I joined the wrestling team my sophomore year, though, that I learned what it meant to push myself to my limits, to dedicate myself to a team, and struggle against my own desire to quit.  Wrestling is a pretty unique sport: if you wrestle with people everyday, you get very close to them (yes, and to portions of their anatomy that you might not otherwise want to be near, but that’s maybe a good thing to: helping people get over their squeamishness about touching other bodies).  The bond between you and your teammates can (possibility, not certainty) be intense.  You are pushing them, pushing yourself in comparison to them, and you can end up feeling as if, as a group, you have gone through something together that other people have not.  At the same time, wrestling is an individual sport: when you have a match, you are alone out there on the mat with your opponent.  Shouts of encouragement and support all blend together, and your coach’s advice can only take you so far; if you get into trouble, the only thing keeping your shoulders from the mat is your determination not to give up.  The feeling of grappling with another person, pitting your strength against theirs… Anyway, I haven’t actually wrestled anyone for at least a decade, but I’ll never forget the feelings it inspired.

3. I love camping, hiking, canoeing, and other outdoor activities, despite the fact that I almost never make time to do them.  My defining experience with “the outdoors” occurred during the summer after I graduated from high school: I went on a six-week trip to the Yukon providence in Canada, for a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) trip.  The first four weeks involved hiking up and down a series of hills and mountains, through every imaginable kind of weather.  On my birthday (June 23rd), I remember us passing through pretty much every kind of weather I knew: rain, wind, fog, sunshine, snow, and hail.  The last two weeks of the trip involved us canoeing down rivers of increasing size.  On that trip I saw vistas of unimaginable beauty, but I never really felt like I connected with any of the other people on the trip… I remember feeling like I was having this amazing experience, but it was almost like I was doing it alone, because I didn’t really relate well to the other people who were with me (although maybe I’m projecting some of this alienation back upon my memories… who knows).  I’d like to think that a lack of willing co-conspirators has been what has kept me from getting back out into the natural world (outside of the occasional white water rafting trip or day-hike), but I think my own complacency is more to blame.

4. I am something of a pack-rat.  I have a strong impulse to save things, things that might not seem like they have much use.  This impulse has come in handy sometimes: I recently started wearing a whole bunch of clothes I had put into storage because I couldn’t fit into them anymore.  More often, though, this impulse leads to cluttered boxes of odds and ends that I couldn’t find a use for when I boxed them up, and which are unlikely to find more of a purpose in any future setting.  Still, I’m someone proud of my desire to save, conserve, re-use.  If anything, I see in it a piece of my grandmother (my mother’s mother).  When she died, and my mom and her siblings were going through her house, I was told they found (among assorted other oddities) a box filled with bits of string.  The bits were all rather short, certainly not long enough to be of use on their own, yet my grandmother saved them just in case.  My mom tells that story as an example of the perils of such impulses, the ways in which they can lead to clutter and wasted space, but I see in that story a stubborn refusal to accept the idea that, if you don’t know what to do with something, throwing it away is the best option.  My grandmother was a remarkable woman, and for all that she was (in some ways) a burden on her children, she also lived in a way that I admire immensely.

5. Although I rarely indulge in it, or can find others who are similarly inclined, I simply LOVE to read out loud.  Doesn’t matter what is being read.  Some of my fondest memories of childhood are of my mother reading to me and my brother (or just to me!).  My father would also read to us, but whereas my mother would often be reading us stories at night, my father would read newspaper articles at breakfast; now that I think about it, I associate the former with childhood and the latter with being a teenager.  I have always connected the idea of reading aloud with moments of real connection with other people; by reading aloud, we focus on text together, we connect our experience of words and then we discuss them to attempt to connect them even more.  Reading aloud has a place in many religious ceremonies, and I understand why: for an atheist, I can get remarkably spiritual about the idea of people trying to find connection through the written word.  Reading by itself is great, but seems almost too pedestrian to be special; I read every day, and I do it in such a wide variety of situations that the activity has lost any special significance.  But reading out loud is rare; you only read out loud for a couple of reasons: to really make your point/to be as clear as possible (in an argument), or to try to share an experience with someone else.

6.  I think, A LOT, about what my life would be like if I had taken time off between college and grad school.  I went straight through, in part because I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do other than be a grad student and, eventually, a professor.  I still can’t think of anything, but I also wonder more and more about the world out there, and what I would have been like in it.  These musings are prompted, most recently, by a whole boatload of my cousins deciding that they, too, would like to go to grad school, after having gone out and done wonderful and exciting things with their lives.  In some ways I’m thankful to be almost done with grad school, while they’re just getting started, but I also envy them some of the experiences they’ve had (teaching middle-school math, working in Africa, starting two businesses, working in a bike shop, biking around the country, biking around New Zealand, etc.).

7.  Because I’ve just noticed that my “7 facts” are much less “fact-y” than the ones Michael was posting, I’ve decided to copy one of his.  My first email address (along with what is still my only AOL Instant Messager screenname) was  I put the name together based on one of my obsessions at the time: lighting and set design for theater productions.  I was in middle school, and was fascinated with the idea of climbing up ladders and adjusting fresnels, or using a jigsaw to cut out ply-wood palm trees.  The screenname stayed with me for a long while, and is now on the main gmail account that I use.  I’m in the process of trying to change everything over to a more professional-sounding account, but the sheer mass of emails I’ve accumulated under that one name has made changing over… impractical.  So for now, I remain connected to the middle-school boy who wanted to be behind the scenes (rather than the high school boy who wanted to be on the stage, or the college man who just wanted to read about the stage, or the grad student who wishes he had any kind of connection to the stage at all).

Good lord that was a long post.  Thanks for tagging me, Michael!  Do I really have to think of 7 other bloggers to tag?  Because, quite frankly, I’m not sure I know that many…

Here goes though:

1. Hope, whose blogging ethic is an inspiration.  Here’s one more thing for you to blog about!  (p.s- you should all buy Hope’s CD, she is an amazing singer/songwriter!  You can probably find it on her blog somewhere)

2. Erin, who always has interesting things to say.  Unfortunately, she also just had a baby, so I don’t know how much blogging she will be doing anytime soon.

3. Andrew, who I suspect thoroughly despises this sort of meme.  Still, if anyone deserves the title of “versatile blogger,” it is him: posts on everything from football rankings to cocktails and outlandish recipes to highly technical computer questions and loads of other things seem to come spilling out of his brain and onto the Internets, for which we are all grateful.

4. SevenRed, who blogs semi-anonymously, and who (though I don’t think I’ve ever told him this,) I consider something of a mentor (in blogging, in poker, and in academic life more generally).

5.  Although he hasn’t posted much recently, I think Adam would do a good job with this meme.

6. Leslie, whose blog I just discovered, but who has already tickled my funny bone, and who OWES ME A BLOG POST.  She knows what the topic was meant to be.  This is number two!

I think I’m going to stop there.  I could probably find a last person to name, but those six are the first that come to mind.