It's My Life. . . (1979- May 2001)

I tend to think of my life as a race: I am running on this track and there are all these hurdles for me to jump over. Not only that, but people keep throwing random crap, ranging from pebbles to boulders, onto the track. All kinds of obstacles for me to surmount and I just gotta keep plugging ahead. . .

That said, here's my life history. It does not pretend to be complete - for that, you gotta read my forthcoming autobiography. Indeed, I consciously left out (or only vaguely alluded to) the juiciest and/or most disturbing parts. They just aren't ready for prime time. But this stuff is. . .

I was born, somewhat scandalously, in ghetto-fabulous Brockton, Massachusetts on October 14, 1979, on the cusp between the 70s and the 80s, disco and pop, and probably some other stuff. I think it's helpful to analyze my life from this liminal standpoint; I am never quite in one place or the other, always an outsider trying to reconcile my place. But I digress.

From what my parents tell me I was a fairly precocious little kid: my first language was Greek (if only I could remember it now!) and I would happily recite things in Greek and English to store clerks. Supposedly I was reading by the age of 3, which made me prime for the enterprise of kindergarten at the ripe old age of 4. Kindergarten, which is about the earliest time I remember, was rife with strife for me. Yup, I was anti-establishment even then - I was known to speak out against injustices I preceived (like the same kid always having to be the dog when my classmates played house) and often landed a place in the "Bad Chair." I sure kept that seat warm. . .

Despite my badness, I progressed to elementary school, where I rubbed shoulders with those who would become some of Brockton's most dangerous felons (little did I know then). I always got called on to read aloud in class because I don't think many of my fellow classmates could read. Despite this, when they did the testing for the Gifted and Talented program in the 3rd grade I wasn't picked. I was bummed, and I think my parents wanted to make me feel better by enrolling me in this radical Baptist elementary school. I spent my 4th grade year there, racking up accolades for speedily transcribing psalms every morning (the kid who did them the fastest got a sticker. I had lots!) and becoming a star dancing tambourinist. You don't wanna know. I got sick of that so my parents put me back in public school for 5th and 6th grade. Those years went well: in the 6th grade, during the height of the Gulf War/Desert Storm and all that, I won an essay contest on why I am proud to be an American. They had an outdoor assembly where I read it, podium and all. Lotsa important people came.

Elementary school segued into junior high and what a change it was: instead of the entire joint being poor enough to be eligible for free and reduced lunch like in elementary school, some kids actually paid full price. And there were more smart kids. I was an unintentional pioneer as the only female drummer in the band, a position I held from elementary school all the way through high school. Since I devoured horror novels as it was, I decided to write a column in the school paper reviewing them. It was pretty popular. Somebody taught me how to play chess during art class and I made it my mission to teach as many other people as I could. One day during a soccer game somebody attacked me, but I lived (this kid is now behind bars for a very long time because someone else he attacked didn't live). In the 8th grade I represented my school at the citywide spelling bee. I was really nervous because I was up against the richer kids from West Junior High. I froze up on the word boredom and spelled it without the e. I was so ashamed, considering I knew much harder words. Alas. . .

Then came high school. Suddenly I was competing with those richer kids from the extreme west side of town, and it was intense. I didn't befriend many of them because we were too dissimilar, but I did befriend a few 1st generation and immigrant kids. Somehow our home lives were very similar. I did tons of stuff in high school: played drums (still the only girl) and trumpet, edited the school paper and wrote crazily right-wing op-ed pieces (my ideology was just a tad different then. . .), ran house for the drama club, competed with the chess team (only girl here too), and did other stuff like Honor Society, Key Club, and what have you. I got into a scary car crash caused by a very intoxicated person, but I lived. I shot for the most competitive colleges I could think of, less because I actually wanted to attend them but more because I wanted to prove to people that a ghetto kid from Brockton High could get in (my guidance counselor had told me no Brockton High applicant had ever gotten into Princeton). Well, I didn't get into Princeton, but I did get into Penn - not without a little drama! (That's a story reserved for the autobio.)

The prefrosh picnic for Penn admits shocked me, but it helpfully foreshadowed what I'd be up against once I got there - kids from privileged backgrounds whose schools offered lots of APs and who had attended fancy enrichment programs at colleges prior to coming to Penn. I wondered how on earth my deficient arse got in but it made me wanna fight fight fight.

Freshman year was largely a debacle, but I did learn several valuable lessons. I started out premed but became rapidly disheartened by the rampant academic dishonesty that I witnessed: flagrant cheating, exam stealing, etc. After testifying for the academic integrity officer dude as part of this huge probe into a particular case, I was about at my wit's end when I realized they were gonna let the perpetrator go without even the slightest sanction. If I was gonna work my butt off to get Cs and other people were gonna cheat and steal to get As without even a slap on the hand, what was the sense of staying premed? I swear, if it wasn't for the support I found via the Penn Band I would've quickly transferred.

Sophomore year I decided to start off by taking a bit of a hiatus from the premed world. I enrolled in an advanced medieval literature class on almost a complete whim (it was *partially* inspired by someone), and I soon found myself permanently trading in my dissection kits and rat corpses (and no, I'm not talking about the ones in my bedroom. . . gotta love living above 2 restaurants, a convenience store and a dining hall) for dead languages and obscure manuscripts. I did something incredibly brave and crazy during spring break (sorry, no details). And then. . .

Junior year I continued the dead language theme, picking up what I thought would be a minor in Classics - but someone else had other designs. So I ended up with a Classics major on top of my English one. Classwork was challenging and never-ending, but I'd hit my stride. There was also some bizarre "extra-curricular" activity that year, but my lips are sealed - wait for the autobio!!

Senior year arrived and I was testing myself to the limit. I took on the English Honors program, the Penn Humanities Forum fellowship, and 5 classes a semester, along with a good 10 hours a week in band, the continued attempt at resurrecting the English UAB, workstudy, and random other things. I smashed my wrist in February, and had 2 surgeries to put it back together, which slowed me down a bit. But I turned out to be a marginally acceptable lefty. I could tie my shoes with my left hand and my teeth. And oh, did I perfect the art of one-handed showering with a trash bag. . .

Upon graduation I had no job offers, 2 grad school acceptances, and no money. I also had Latin honors and honors in my English major, a far cry from 1st semester freshman year's lowly GPA of 2.5. I had worked my arse off and had (almost) something to show for it. I showed people never to underestimate the ghetto white trash kid. But the race isn't over and there is still a lot of work to be done - a few laps and hurdles down, tons more to go. Watch out: I am a force to be reckoned with. Or, a force with which to be reckoned, to be a proper English grammarian. :)