Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Autobiography of Sorts

Hey all.
I'm doing a writing exercise thing with some friends.
Guess what the first assignment was?
Well, you can't guess cuz you're reading this and not interacting with me live, so I'll just type it here.

It's...not that brief..but I'm not seven years old.

So..read on if you wish.

I'm bad at titles and introductions, and I decided to do this writing challenge without realizing the first challenge is essentially one long introduction. Whoopsiedoodles. 

I guess this is the part where I give you a brief autobiography. 
I am Marielle. 
Legally, it's Mariel, but we'll trifle with those things later. 
Extra LE for better pronunciation and making things simpler. 

I was born in Colorado, right in the foothills of Fort Collins. My mom was all kinds of in love with my dad, my dad loved her right back. He also loved the mountains, and had a kind heart.  I was born around Thanksgiving, and a week later he was gone. An accident. Which I don't mention much, but is now part of this autobiography exercise. That feels a little weird, honestly. 

So then I was back in Chicagoland around my mom's family, and that's how I grew up. My grandma is the matriarch, but she doesn't rule with an iron fist. Instead, she's gentle and kind and funny, and people just seem to do what she wants because they respect her, and that's the kind of woman I'd like to be. Even when I've been the maddest at someone, she's been able to make me see their side, even for a moment. 

Then there's my momma. She got to Colorado working on a ranch, and that's how she got to meeting my dad. She's artistic and a writer and stubborn and strong, and as much as I might not think I'm like her sometimes, I am. When I was younger she wrote a children's book about me which I love to this day, and even though I'm a bee in it and I'm terrified of bees...well, it works. She was a single mom and I know that was hard. I know at times we didn't have much, and I remember eating lots of Lunchables and stuff but things always seemed like an adventure and she loved me lots, and that's the part I take from it, even if she remembers more of the harder stuff. 

Being an only child is a little weird. In that it doesn't seem weird til you get around other kids. I had a HUGE imagination and was always an Indian in a tribe exploring the forest or a horse running in the pasture or a detective figuring out who stole the diamonds, and I rarely cared if I was the only one in the roles. I did science experiments and I rode my bike too fast and I skinned my knees and caught butterflies and made forts and collected Hot Wheels. I had Barbies but my main interest in them was doing their hair. 

I wasn't around that many little kids in the neighborhoods I grew up in, so I ended up talking to adults more, and since my mom read to me so much, when i got into school I was really really ahead of the game, and that made me weird. One or two kids were weird with me.  In first grade, I met my best friend forever, Dawn. I think I was too young to remember what it was that made me so attached to her at that age, but I do remember I'd hated her the year before. We went to a very small Christian school.  About 13 kids per class if you were lucky. The teachers were amazing and really, really cared, and could interact with us in ways that many schools just...don't allow for (though not in a creepy way.)  

Dawn and I were completely inseparable. We spent all our time together to the point we got in trouble for not spending time with anyone else. We wrote each other notes and made up phrases and were both horses running in pastures. We watched the Little Mermaid 76 times when we WERE keeping track and still to this day could probably both recite it. We went to Six Flags together. It was awesome.  I had some other friends too, but none were as close as she was. 

She moved schools in time for middle school, and it sucked. We kept in touch with a notebook we passed back and forth a la Babysitter's Club, and we still saw each other lots, but the school part was hard. 

Somewhere in there I started to play in band, and I was good at it. Gawky skinny clarinet player with giant glasses. I was a cheerleader (whatever that means in middle school at a tiny private school.)

My mom got remarried, and I got a sister and brother. Which was.awesome. Even though it wasn't the easiest thing, I'm still so grateful to know what it's like to be a big sister and have a brother and a wonderful sister who I still have amazing relationships with today, and to know a new family as my own. 

 Problem, at least during middle school?

I was not popular. In fact, I'd probably isolated myself too much and found myself very on the outside. I was miserable. Quite miserable. 
My band teacher was a refuge in all of this. She helped me deal with the whole middle schooler drama, plus the no dad thing, plus the unpopular thing. 
At the same time, a more permanent "adopted dad" was coming into my life in the form of the youth pastor at the church we attended. One day when I felt like I hit rock bottom, he was standing there. And I was waiting for a lecture or a sermon or to be ignored, and he opened his arms to hug me. And I sobbed. But I felt like that's what it'd be like to have a dad, and maybe I'd found that. 

And he did and does do that for me, though I had to figure out how it worked and how to approach it. He's kicked tires on my cars, helped me through breakups and generally given me great advice ever since then.  And great hugs. He's wonderful at those.  He's showed up at car accidents and hospitals and I have no doubt he'll continue to be there, even though lately I've been sorta distanced from him.  But I have no doubts in that relationship and I'm glad for it. 

My parents made me go to public high school. I'm glad I did. I'm even more glad I played an instrument, as it got me an instant cadre of friends. 80 some friends right off the bat. Another band director who was amazing and able to help guide me through things I was struggling with and make me a better musician. I had a classic 1950's relationship that started my sophomore year. He asked me out in gym, and I said yes in the hallway on the way to English class. He was my first kiss. He smelled like Irish Spring soap and motor oil.  He had an orange Pontiac Sunfire.  I wore his class ring around my neck. When we got caught in the rain when his car broke down, he put his letter jacket on me. He carried my books and got in near fights with guys who tried to mess with me.  Seriously. I don't know how I time warped. 

Previous to that I had a crush on someone and I never thought it'd work. Well, when I least expected it, it did. Sort of. I broke up with the 50s guy knowing it wasn't right if I had feelings for someone else and I never felt that bad in my life. 

But nothing happened. So I stayed single, stayed totally in love with this guy.  A week after graduation, he literally swept me off my feet.  And two months later, we broke up. 

Or did we? 
We did. Then we didn't. Then we did. That chapter lasts way too long. I didn't ever want to not be his friend, but I probably never should have dated him. Still, first love. That's complicated.  More when he breaks your heart (and several others). More when he's still an integral part of a circle of friends that's sacred to you.  Speaking of that.

Another best friend...Patty. She came around on a field trip to Chicago. She bought a cello on this trip,  from a guy who thought there were going to be demons entering his shop from Michigan Avenue. I carried the cello for her along with some other friends. She dared me to stand in the fountain at the Art Institute (also right on Michigan Avenue), so I did, and she bought me dinner.  She's fantastic and weird and wonderful, and opened me up in a lot of ways. 

Our little circle had bonfires all after high school. Religiously, from March til November if weather allowed. We'd drink or not, and different people would guest star or not, but that group was and is incredibly important to me, and they know who they are. I think, in a time of such change, with college and "the real world" butting in, it was great to have that home base to come to once a week, even with its own dramas and problems. 

I worked at Pizza Hut and studied business, thinking I'd go into marketing. I got my first real job at Hewitt. I was good at it, and I advanced, and made money. Oh, and I met someone. Someone who made me believe in love at first sight, and then question everything. Someone who I felt like I fit with from moment 1 and spent so, so much time with. 

I was on an internet forum at the same time, and I made some lifelong friendships there, including my mathy, moosey friend Joey, the always confusing/amusing cavehamster, my sweet friend Rhonda, my practically-family jwing...too many to name, and so many of whom have shaped my life in different ways, including my partner in writing crime here, another Dawn, whose floor I have slept on and kids I have met and who I have plotted and schemed with. Good things.

I moved in with Patty for a while even, which was awesome, and made me gain more family in her brother and mom.

My job kinda went south, and I quit. After I went home, I made a joke to a friend of his that now that I was destitute and jobless I should just move out West. Well, he took the joke out of it and offered that I rent a room in New Mexico, which was also the state that this newfound flame was. Who also knows who he is. In any case, I moved. 

SOOOOO many people thought I moved for him. I didn't. Though skipped over in this "brief" autobiography, I hit the mountains of Colorado again at 16 on a band trip and my life changed. My heart lit up and I knew I needed the mountains.  So despite it being crazy, short notice, and supposedly because of a guy...I packed up my jeep, got my cat as my co-pilot and made a 23 hour trip to Los Alamos. 

It was...insane. New Mexico was an entirely different planet. The plants weren't the same, the lake wasn't East because there WAS no lake, I was at 7500 feet at my job and 6800 at my house...and I could run for miles on end without running into a single soul. The sunsets were fire in the sky, and the air was dry and smelled of sage and juniper. I...was high on it. New culture, new lifestyle. I slowed down. I didn't have a job for some time, but then I was a baker, and a fish counter girl, and an art store clerk, and though I struggled so much financially and even a little health wise during that time, I learned more than I ever thought I would. And I saw that flame, and that fire burned, at least for me, just the way it had. 

And circumstances changed and I had to move to Socorro, NM. And it was weird but great. And my friends and his friends were the same now, and that was really ok. On top of which, he was willing to let his friends really really be mine. Lifelong friendships formed. I am so grateful for every moment of that time. I'm so grateful for all the people it brought in my life, and every moment I spent with him too, which I hope he knows. 

When that came to an end, it felt like my world did, too. I hadn't ever really felt quite like that. 
Just like that, I was back in Illinois. -20 weather and not much else. 

Enter the boy. The man, really. But I remember him as he was in his freshman, my sophomore year. Quiet cute guy on the steps of the band room reading. Well, he played trumpet. And he was smart and sweet. And we were friends, though not super close ones, all through high school. He went away, he came back. We kept in touch no matter where he was, and that got to be pretty far away. 

Meanwhile, I moved Patty out to Washington State and in the process got to know her brother a hell of a lot better, which I'm grateful for, because he's cool as hell and we had a pretty epic adventure driving a giant moving truck from IL to WA. I was worried we'd have nothing to talk about but now we have inside jokes. It's kinda awesome. 

I love picking up friends along life's way. It's my favorite thing about life. 

I felt a little lonely without her. 
He made me get coffee to cheer me up. He made me get out of deerfield and do things. We made our friendship stronger. He left for Texas, and we stayed in touch every.single.day with almost no exception. 

Dawn and I re-gained our daily communication, and are friends and confidantes. We make each other brownies and drink wine and cry and laugh together. We buy Kermits and take them to restaurants and take pictures of them together. 

My friend Holly from back in the Christian school days came back from overseas. We were both kinda heartbroken at the same time, and we both ended up working together where I'd worked at Walgreens  (and also met a bunch of unforgettable people who I hope I'll call friends for a long time).

Somewhere in there, in 2013, I did this weird thing to fix my heartbreak. I decided to do one thing I'd always wanted to do but had talked myself out of. It was this really weird thing called GISHWHES. It's an international scavenger hunt where you get paired up with friends and strangers and do really insane things like try to get the CEO of Groupon to wear a tux and dance to single ladies and send it to you for points.  And try to get the people on the ISS to hold a sign with your weird team's name on it. And hug people. And donate money and all the items on a registry to a soldier whose house burned down...

And somewhere in there my courage went up by about a thousand. And I saw a tweet about writing for the A&E section of a website I was a devoted reader of, Chicagoist. So I sent in some samples without hardly blinking an eye, because after all, I was trying to get CEOS to dance to Single Ladies like it was normal, so why the hell was trying for my dream job so hard?

And I got it. And I have gone so many amazing places, to so many amazing events, met so many great people...had and have great editors...have done amazing interviews with people, and gotten to treat friends to things I could never afford...what an amazing adventure!! All because of a weird scavenger hunt Misha Collins brewed up in his head. 

Meanwhile, Holly and I worked through the relationship/life/heartbreak thing together and met people (or reconnected with them, in my case...that same boy from the band stairs...) and got happier, and had weird doubts and fun pizza nights and beers together. We got into relationships, and...well...I just went to her wedding in November, and it was gorgeous and perfect and I was so, so amazingly happy for her, seeing her dreams come true out of all the hardships she had before. 

Now...well...now I still write for Chicagoist. Walgreens went away, which was sad, but I'm pursuing some more dream jobs. I'm in a relationship with someone who loves me in ways I still struggle to understand. He's proud to be with me, and when I do a wiggly "got the zucchini" dance at Jewel, he pulls me in for a kiss right there in the produce aisle. Sometimes he does an "I have some ice cream" dance, and I do the same thing back in reverse. We're leaving for the north woods of WI ..tomorrow now, and I'm excited for a bit of time away from "real life" with him for now, though I'm grateful to be a part of his every day, even when that's hard and we drive each other crazy. 

I feel like, even if I don't know what the hell is next, it's ok enough to not freak out, and that...has been 32 years in the making. 
I'll figure it out, and now I know, in writing this, who helped me get there and who I hope I'll keep walking with.
You know who you all are. ;)

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