A Brief History of (My) Time, Volume 3

15 Apr

Ages 19-28:  Pseudo-Adult – I went to college at Central Michigan University (which is sort-of a miracle considering my shitty grades and lack of concern for all things academic.  I think my ACT score indicated that I had a 3rd grade math level, which makes sense considering that 3rd grade was when I had my, um, awakening).  I was awarded a full ride as long as I studied Vocal Performance.  Sweet.  So what do you suppose I did?  I diddled around in the music department for a year and a half and when it became apparent to me and CMU’s estimable faculty that I had no interest in studying music and was only mildly interested in singing, I ditched the music program for philosophy.  God only knows why philosophy.  I took a couple of classes on a whim and, to be honest, I kicked ass (which is really pretty easy so don’t get too excited – you’d kick ass too if your classmates weren’t able to wrap their minds around a syllogism*).  I have no idea why, but CMU’s faculty in the Philosophy department were so kind to me and took me under their wings and listened patiently while I fell in love with the bombastic ideas of great thinkers (and maybe even more in love with the sound of my own voice).  I also have no idea what accounts for my quick academic turn-around, but somehow I got it together and managed to be a pretty decent student all of a sudden.  Studying philosophy at CMU remains one of my favorite adventures of all time and I get nostalgic when I think about how truly wonderful all of the professors there were to me.  That experience changed my life in all of the best ways and rehabilitated my brain (to the extent that this sort of thing was possible considering the raw materials).  I sometimes think that if I didn’t have any responsibilities I’d like nothing more than to just sit in on philosophy classes at CMU forever.  I’d drink coffee, stroke my imaginary beard, and read the assignments.  I’d write the papers and ask thoughtful, probing, questions and know that I was meeting someone’s expectations for once in my little life.  That’s the great thing about college – someone hands you a paper at the beginning of each course telling you how to be successful.  Man, I really miss that part.  If I could just get my hands on one of those papers for my life now, I’d be in business.

I did a bunch of neat stuff while in college.  I went to China and taught English/evangelized (which I now feel pretty weird about – colonialist much?), I continued to run my little fiefdom, er, dance company, I tutored (and have the brain-damage from explaining Pascal’s Wager 15 times a week to prove it), I taught dance, I married Nathan, I worked at a coffee shop, I worked in an office, I lived in the world’s tiniest apartment with a sage and forest green splatter painted bathroom, I lived in the international dorm with a wonderfully crazy Japanese roommate, I traveled and studied in England, I gave a paper at a little philosophy conference, I got my first cell phone, I learned how to send email attachments – oh wait, no, that was after college.  Yes, I remember now, I learned how to send email attachments in 2005.   As an aside, I still have no idea how to use a “flash drive” – or as I call it, a computer stick.  If you post a comment below detailing this process, I will cut you (I’m looking at you, Nathan).  Anyway…..

Graduation loomed, and so with no idea how to go about getting a job and becoming a bona-fide adult, I took matters into my own hands.  One morning I woke up and decided to buy the dance studio in town.  It was “maybe” for sale, so I decided I could do it.  Run a business?  No sweat.  Just like that. I owned Vision for 4 years and mostly loved it (after I hired someone fabulous to do all of the business-y crap, obviously).  I whole-heartedly loved my students and the families who were part of that community.  I worked insane hours, teaching at CMU, Alma College, Mt. Pleasant High School, Vision and Academy of Performing Arts in Alma – sometimes all at the same time.  I don’t mind telling you that I had a body like whoa during this phase of my life.  You would too if you jumped up and down for 10 hours a day.  I studied dance history and fell in love with Merce Cunningham. I also got serious about making dances and expanded the dance company I’d started to become a more professional(ish) outfit.  think/dance collective is another adventure that I loved whole-heartedly – mostly because I was so fortunate to attract such smart, talented and genuinely wonderful dancers and we had so many fabulous art-capades together.  During this time, I also met my BFF/hetrolifemate Megan.  We’ve been talking each other into our bad decisions and laughing/crying through our adventures ever since.  And lastly, I acquired Maude the dog (who has been shitting on my rugs and eating my garbage ever since).

And then, on another morning, I decided that I should move to Chicago.  Luckily, Nathan was on board and, in fact, already had his eye on a graduate program at Colombia College.  My brother Matt had moved there a few years earlier and after several visits, I decided that Chicago was calling my name with it’s avant garde dance scene, it’s vibrant guts, it’s ramshackle transit system and it’s promise of new possibilities.  I love it here.  I love Chicago so much it would be impossible to say.  I can’t read on the train because I have to watch it.  I whisper “I love you” to the street when I close my curtains at night.  I’m getting a little choked up right now if you want to know the truth.

If I’m being honest, Chicago has knocked me around quite a lot since I arrived here.  I’ve had several jobs that were stinkers (administrative/creative assistant for a furniture designer who was channeling Meryl Streep’s characterization of Anna Wintour, Barista, and my most recent position as a semi-aimless, gestating, vagrant), I’ve experienced artistic rejection (or perhaps more accurately, critical apathy), and I’ve had a big wallop of a surprise in the form of an unplanned pregnancy and subsequent (totally awesome) baby.  But there is some kind of Nelson Algren-esque feeling deep within my soul that loves Chicago with an ache and a fire.  Like all of the best things, I can’t explain it.  It may have something to do with the hot dogs.

And this brings us to the present.  I’m living in a fabulous (albeit semi-crumbling in places) apartment in a dreamy neighborhood where I can walk 2 blocks and hear 4 languages being spoken/screamed. I have a wonderfully weird and loving family, a job that I adore teaching dance in Chicago Public Schools, and all of the adventures in urban living that I can handle.  When I’m not busy freaking out, I feel so lucky/whatever-word-you-might-use-without-baggage-for blessed that I could explode with the possibility and delight of it all.

Not a bad run, all things considered.  I’ll keep you posted on developments.

This ends the series.  Crap.  Now what are we going to talk about?  I’m taking suggestions.  Maybe current events?  As long as it’s printed in the redeye, I’m totally up to speed.

* I really need footnotes.  So here is the funny story of my first day of Logic.  At the very beginning of the class, our professor told us that some students just wouldn’t be able to understand some of the things in this class – essentially he told us that some of our brains are just broken – that this stuff would just never make sense to us.  I was thinking “SHIT!  That’s definitely going to be me!  Disaster right out of the gate!”  Kind of a bummer, but whatever, moving on.  He then started explaining how a syllogism works (you know:  if all As are Bs and C is an A, what do we know for sure about C?  Not to ruin the suspense for our slower readers, but C is a B, right?  Right).  So anyway, he was saying that it doesn’t matter what information you use – you can say if all bleeps are blurps and blerg is a bleep…. you get the picture – it’s all about the form.  So then he writes this on the board:

All Sorority girls are dumb

Susie is a Sorority girl

What do we know about Susie?

Wouldn’t you know it, a hand SHOT up.  “I just really don’t think it’s fair for you to label people like that.  I mean, I just think that everyone is different and we shouldn’t stereotype.”  I thought, oh thank God – it’s her and not me.  Whew…….


2 Responses to “A Brief History of (My) Time, Volume 3”

  1. Jordan April 16, 2010 at 3:21 am #

    This being your blog and not mine, I gotta be careful to keep the spotlight where it rightfully belongs, but I thought you would be amused to know that I barely made it through high school but thrived in college and beyond in my life in philosophy. I wonder about that, but have my pet theories, of course.

    Mostly I think that my brain (and yours) is ‘wired’ in a certain odd way — philosophy, as you know, is about thinking in an odd way — statistically odd, anyway — about odd questions, and it only really fits that rare few. It fit me, though, and it was (and is) something that makes me excited and engages my imagination in a way that others subjects never quite did. I read a biography recently of Bobby Fischer and his life in chess, and I think his relationship to chess is like my relationship to philosophy. He couldn’t explain it, but clearly had a knack for it — for thinking in a certain way about a certain set of particular problems. It was a bit built in his genes, but he worked hard at it, too. … that is the key, really. Some natural talent + lots of hard work. Philosophy can be that way. Hard work will not do it alone, but natural talent isn’t enough.

    But, in my case anyway, the story doesn’t really end there. I was inspired to pursue that particular passion in large part because I fell under the spell of a few influential teachers at a point in my life where I was looking for that sort of relationship. The philosophers who mentored me treated my ideas (mostly bad ideas) with genuine seriousness and engaged me on those ideas using standards of reason that I accepted and could see as fair and appropriate.

    Moreover — and I don’t know if you had this experience — but the fact that I was asked to read and reflect on serious works about the human condition, meaning and purpose, etc. meant, for me, that those conversations had a visceral importance to me that other matters (academic matters, anyway) lacked.

    To put it together: I was able to talk about substantial and deeply-personal subjects, with people who took my ideas seriously but were able to respond and advance those ideas with humor and critical objectivity, and then to also have it be the case that those very persons seemed to exhibit personal qualities that I admired, respected, and desired to emulate … well, that is what worked for me.

    I’ll be 41 in a few days, but — your evangelical background will find this amusing — I think of myself as being almost two people. I was one person until I was about 18 and found the philosophy department. And then, shortly thereafter, I was born again. Sanctified.

    • lizjoyntsandberg April 16, 2010 at 5:06 pm #

      Dr. Lindberg! I feel so honored that you’re reading this drivel! I’ve got to tell you, I’m learning quite a bit about fish, conservation, and all kinds of northern michigan things from True North Trout. Nathan is thrilled with this development and feels that my reading on the subject brings him one step closer to his dream of a family fishing vacation. My major hang-up involves a “no rubber pants” resolution. I’ll let you know what develops.

      You were a big part of my wonderful experience at CMU, but you already know that I’m sure. Epistemology was such a fantastic class, but more than the material, I learned so much from the way you treated your students. Our ideas were just the worst, but you always found a way to make them “work” – to cajole us into something more coherent while making us think that that’s what we were trying to say in the first place. This is genus and also comes in handy when trying to get pretty much anything in this world. Who says studying philosophy isn’t practical?!

      I absolutely relate to the “cocktail” you describe of exciting ideas, kind people and a culture of engagement/creative thinking being the thing that “worked.” I’m sure you hear this sort of thing all the time, but you made that happen for me – thanks.

      The idea that my brain shares anything in common with yours is so wildly flattering and encouraging that I think I’m just going to believe it and feel fantastic about myself for a few days (or until I misunderstand fractions while cooking and make something really foul on accident, or some similarly stupid thing).

      Feel free to step into the spotlight anytime – I’m not sure what I’m doing with it anyway and could use the company.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: