Friday, January 28, 2011

In the Beginning -- Kristi


In the beginning, I was a basically “normal” person. I was raised by working class parents in Portland, Oregon, who respected education and encouraged me to get a degree. As Ti mentioned, I started out at the alternative Evergreen State College in Olympia, where I learned I wasn’t “alternative” enough to fit in. So I put myself through school and earned a degree in International Studies from the University of Washington. Upon graduation, I fled the country to work in remote Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Impetuous move #1. Little did I know I had just set the stage for my whole life.

After returning from the Peace Corps, I cast around for a direction and life. Finding neither, I did what many a lost woman has done before me: I got married and had kids. By the time I figured out I had picked the wrong guy (and the wrong life), I had moved back and forth across the country following my husband’s struggling career, had another child and ended up in Seattle where I finally figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up: work for Public Television. I started out as a receptionist at KCTS just to get my foot in the door. But two days after my (now ex) husband moved out I got a call from KCTS offering me the job of my dreams: Outreach and Learning Services Coordinator.

By 1997, I was a single mom with an interesting job, two young children daughters, a nice “normal” home in an upscale neighborhood of Seattle, and lots of fun, educated, left-of-center urban friends that looked and acted like me. A pretty average urban life.

My work as an outreach coordinator creating public education and outreach campaigns for PBS documentary productions was rewarding. I got to do meaningful work and work with cool people like Ti, who, despite our many differences, was a great cubical mate. She was quiet; I was not. She worked odd hours; I punched the clock. She had a fish tank and art and other cool things on her desk while I could barely find mine under piles of paper and files.

Ti was Chinese-American with great stories to tell about her family. I was an American mutt with few stories to tell about mine. Her work ethic and organizational skills were incredible while mine were okay, but not great. I often would sit in awe as she effortlessly moved between the three computer screens sitting on her desk, each with a different project, while I struggled to even find my current project in the pile of poo that was my desk. We mostly did our separate work but would occasionally collaborate on projects together, which we did well. Casual conversation, on the other hand, was dicey. Example:

Kristi (making light conversation and obviously wasting time): “So, Ti, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah?”

Ti (rapidly typing away): “Why are you asking me this?”

Kristi: “Ummm, just curious.”

Ti: “No.” Conversation ends.

I remember the time I laughingly told Ti my philosophy on life, which had been passed down to me by my anti-authority mother. “It’s easier to say I’m sorry than to get permission.” I chortled. Ti looked at me squarely for a few moments and said, “Why would you apologize?”

“Okaaaay” I thought. Another east/west moment bites the dust.

Yet, despite these rather odd cultural moments, my life in Seattle was pretty normal. My home was tidy, my children were clean, people liked me and thought I was a nice person. I had lots of good friends. No big controversies to speak of.

How it is that I end up living in a small, dark, wood-smoke-filled log cabin in a remote mountain community where bears wander through my garden, people shoot deer in my driveway, and I develop a growing reputation as a troublemaker is… Well, that is the heart of my story, and something I’m still trying to figure out. In retrospect, I blame it all on the “Wild Women.”

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