I grew up in California, but I’ve spent all but a couple weeks of my 20s living in various cities in Iowa. When I tell Iowans – especially native Iowans – where I’m from, they look at me in disbelief, almost disapprovingly. They ask me how I ended up in Iowa (though it’s usually more of a “Why?”, though they never use “Why?”).
I usually tell them there’s a short version – that I transferred to the University of Iowa, settled in, and never left – and a long version – a rambling mess that includes three key parts: why I considered Iowa at all (#1 on this list), what sold me on the UI (#2 on this list), and why I stuck around (the husband).
People never want the long version. So I’ve finally compromised between the two, and I now present to you a list version that contains all the people who played some part in getting me here, where I’ve since earned two degrees, gotten married, and now enjoy something resembling a life here. (Now I can just send inquiring Iowans this link!)
Ms. Manchester: My junior year AP English teacher, and the obvious #1. She did her master’s program at the University of Iowa, and when she heard I was going to be driving through the state, she urged me to make a pit stop in Iowa City. I did. I fell in love immediately and applied to the school as soon as I got home. (She was also the first to introduce me to Hamburg Inn, for which I can never truly thank her enough).
Ariel: My good high school friend. She was working for one of our high school teachers, who asked her to deliver his van from Sonoma to Chicago the summer after our freshman year of college. She then asked me to join her, and we ended up making that pit stop in Iowa City a few hours before we arrived in Chicago.
Mr. Donnelley: My – and Ariel’s – high school economics teacher. He was flush with cash from growing some algae before he started teaching in the area and thus felt it necessary to dip into a pool of loyal former students to find a personal assistant. He chose Ariel, and one summer he asked her to deliver one of his cars from Sonoma to Chicago.
Sonoma Valley Unified School District/the city of Sonoma: There’s only one high school in Sonoma. But there are two middle schools, one of which opened the year I started sixth grade. Thanks to a diversity-motivated move from the district, my elementary school and another elementary school across town were the ones chosen to populate the new middle school. Ariel didn’t go to that other elementary school, but she lived in its district, so she ended up in middle school with me.
Old Adobe School: The preschool where Ariel and I first met. We wouldn’t have reconnected in middle school if not for this chance friendship.
My parents: We moved to Sonoma when I was 4 years old. “We” included my parents, who chose to move there. This was pretty straightforward.
My dad’s firm: I think it was their choice to move the company from the San Francisco metro, where we lived at the time, to Sonoma.
Maybe going back any further would be pointless, but I could have gone back quite a bit, until it devolved into a series of “what if” questions: What if my dad hadn’t hated his first college so much he quit during his first semester, thereby graduating from his second college a year later than if he’d finished on time? What if he’d finished on time and hadn’t ended up in the Washington, D.C. area, where he was introduced to my mom? What if my mom hadn’t left Haiti, where she was born, and made it to New York City, where she grew up?
Myself: For the existential crisis that was the process of making this list.
You: Well, either you’re here in Iowa with me and have made this journey worthwhile, you’re someone I knew before Iowa and didn’t virulently object to my decision to move here, or you’re neither, you’re still reading this, and you made it to #10. Thank you.
Knowing someone who likes the obscure things that you like…and becoming friends I was going to write that I can’t remember a single friendship that has arisen from us liking the same obscure things, but then I realized my entry didn’t say there was a cause-and-effect relationship between the two. So yes, at some point, I probably have started a friendship with someone where we later learned – or later both discovered – the same “obscure” things. (See #97, I suppose.)
Herbie Hancock See #78. Also, in jazz band that year, we played Cantaloupe Island.
Nailing a musical solo :) I debated posting a video of me doing just that, but you’ll just have to trust me. My senior year of high school, we went to Orlando for our music department tour, and I had a solo in one of our concert band songs. When they were giving out awards later in the trip, they announced that one of the individual excellence award was for a flute soloist – cue exaggerated nudging from my classmates – that wasn’t me. But all those people thought it was me, so that was fun.
Being Haitian! I posted this video on my aunt’s Facebook wall and I woke up to see a bunch of Haitian relatives had liked it and my aunt had commented, “And now I want all of it!!!”
EPIC STFU CHRISTINE.
Paying slightly more for MUCH better floss I bought HyVee brand floss the other day. It’s fine, really.
Keeping busy enough not to worry Now it’s less wanting to be buy to distract from my anxiety, more needing to be busy because boredom, for me, means I’m apt to marathon several seasons of a TV show and get nothing done for days.
Sunsets The Midwest has the best sunsets because it’s so flat here. Quote me.
Being chosen for something prestigious When I was a junior in high school, my math teacher needed to nominate someone to be one of the two representatives the school sent to Apple HQ in Cupertino to learn about the laptop carts and new tech stuff they’d be implementing on campus. So, of course, he asked a guys – a friend of mine – if he’d be interested in going. Lucky for the teacher, that guy knew better; he admitted he didn’t know squat about Apple anything and suggested me instead. It wasn’t the most prestigious thing I was ever chosen to do, sure, but it was an amazing experience. Plus I got to make a podcast with the superintendent and my middle school principal in one of the workshops we attended at Apple, and I had to call them by their first names, which was SO STRANGE.
Middle English That dark period in my life where I was so into being an English major that I memorized a good chunk of the Prologue to Canterbury Tales is over now. But I still follow @LeVostreGC on Twitter, so.
University of Iowa football
Well, they had just won the Orange Bowl… But seriously, I am still a fan, bolstered by their improbably great season last year. I never did make it to a game when I actually went to school there, though.
Learning more about myself from a book This is so vague that I doubt I actually had a book in mind. But if I were to amend this item today, I’d say that I enjoy books that are so similar to my own (past) life and experiences that I can live somewhat vicariously through their characters. Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is a perfect example, especially the “socially inept college freshman” part.
Sigur Rós I could talk about how a good friend of mine introduced me to them in high school, and therefore introduced me to Iceland. I could talk about how their film Heima screened in Iowa City and I was one of the first people to get a ticket. But instead, I’ll just show you this video, because it’s the song my husband and I walked down the aisle to at our wedding.
Reykjavík, Iceland A.K.A. “the dream.” My parents have been there, and I’m still not over it.
Powell’s Books I’ve been here once. In fact, the entirety of my time spent in Portland has been at Powell’s (and in their strange little parking garage). But I do remember buying a Calvino book – after marveling at how many they had – and getting lost in the stacks and adoring the color-coding and just having a perfect time.
Welcome to part 4 of “This 25-year-old revisited her teen years. What she discovered about herself will shock you.” [ Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 ]
Not being a complete idiot Sigh.
Leonard Bernstein’s tone clusters I was in the pit orchestra of my high school’s production of West Side Story (which, if you didn’t put it together by now, had music written by Leonard Bernstein). The finale contains a couple of fun little tone clusters – not to get too technical, they’re basically a bunch of similar notes all played at the same time – and I evidently liked those quite a bit. In the below video, listen at 1:18-1:20.
My ghetto iPhone :) No, Christine. Stop. (This could have been a poorly-conceived inside joke.)
Itzhak Perlman Music of the Heart was one of my favorite films when I was studying violin. It features a ton of well-known professional violinists, including Joshua Bell, the late Isaac Stern, Arnold Steinhardt, and, of course, Itzhak Perlman. I can’t remember why I initially identified with him so strongly, but I think – I think – his artistry really started to stick with me when I watched Schindler’s List for the first time in high school. His violin solo in the film’s main theme is indescribably great…and I’m aware of how little justice I’m doing him with that description. (Content note: The video below contains scenes from the film, some of which are graphic and/or potentially triggering.)
Yellow, blue, black, orange In kindergarten, we randomly chose a “Student of the Week” every week of the school year. Now, I don’t remember much of what that entailed, but I do remember we had a few of our friends in the class trace an outline of our bodies on butcher paper and we also filled out a survey answering our favorite color, food, hobby, things like that. “What’s your favorite color?” really tripped me up because even at age 5, I had never considered what my favorite color might be – I liked all of them! So in a moment of near-desperation, I chose yellow, and stuck with that as my go-to answer until college. I’ve since reevaluated my favorite color – it’s now blue – and I think black and orange might be in this entry as well because they’re Giants colors? Who knows.
The haka!! Per Wikipedia, “the haka is a traditional ancestral war cry, dance, or challenge from the Māori people of New Zealand. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment.” I first learned about the haka on the Lord of the Rings special features DVDs (of course), when the stunt team performed one for Viggo Mortensen and Bernard Hill on their final day of shooting. Then, when I visited New Zealand in 2006, we spent part of our visit to the Auckland Museum viewing its famous Māori cultural performance, which included a haka – it’s absolutely electrifying to see one in real life. The one I’m including below is the New Zealand All Blacks national rugby team’s performance of “Ka Mate.” The All Blacks perform a haka before every match to intimidate their opponents.
When plans work out perfectly. I’m known to stress out a lot about making simple plans with friends. On TV, when two characters are planning to get together some weekend afternoon and they don’t specify what time they’re going to meet up, I cannot handle it. I need to know not only what time we’re meeting, but exactly where (we’re meeting at the mall? Okay, but where in the mall? Outside which store? *furiously Googles a floor map of the mall*), when we’re meeting, what we might be doing after meeting up, and when we might be done. This used to be a lot worse – I’m slightly more relaxed about this now – but I fully understand why I included this item. When I don’t have to worry at all about making and executing plans, it’s a good day.
Hatchet murdering essays! When I was a senior in high school, I had a lot of friends who were juniors who took AP English, as I had with the same teacher the year before. One week, their assignment was to have a peer edit their essay, and the quality of the edits would determine their grade. My friend gave me his essay to edit, and I went a little wild color-coding errors, writing extended paragraphs in the margins detailing what was wrong, and so, so much more I’ve probably blocked out by now. Anyway, instead of turning in the version I had edited, he turned in one lightly edited with pencil, making it look like there wasn’t much work to be done. He received a check (on a check-minus/check/check-plus system) – and then his teacher saw the version I had edited. She likened my editing skills to that of a “hatchet murderer” and gleefully told my friend that he would have received a check-plus had he turned in that version instead. Throughout that year, several people in that AP English class gave me their essays to edit for them, and I kept the moniker as the greatest ego boost I could have ever asked for.
Never having to take math again Funny, because I did have to take a statistics class at Iowa for my psychology degree about a year after I wrote this list. But that was the only college math class I ever took (excluding AP Statistics, which I took in high school, though I did receive college credit for my AP exam score).
The Olympic Games “Hey, Harrison! Harrison! You’re Olympic champion if you finish the fight smart!” – Jimmy Pedro on the sideline coaching Kayla Harrison, who overcame enormous adversity to win the first-ever Olympic gold medal in judo for the United States, men or women. [ video of the end of the match ]
The Simpsons Movie My Instagram username is “clapforalaska” for a reason.
Parkour I guess I watched a lot of parkour videos on YouTube, because there is literally no reason why else this might have been on the list.
Mindfucks! (www.shitbrix.com) Smooth, Christine, including a LINK on your HANDWRITTEN LIST. (The website does still exist, by the way.) I think this was before I discovered the thriller genre, so now I can get my fix by watching movies or TV shows instead of looking at silly Internet photos of hidden creepy faces.
Dancing the macarena to Kool and the Gang Every year when I was in high school (and then scattered years after that, if it didn’t fold sooner after I graduated), us in the music department had a chance to volunteer at Sonoma’s annual jazz festival. Freshman year, my friend and I ushered at the Mavis Staples/Isaac Hayes show, sophomore year another friend I worked parking, and senior year the jazz band – of which I was a part – got to perform every night on one of the smaller stages, which meant we also got free admission to the shows (Kool and the Gang, Herbie Hancock, Al Green, and so many more). My friend – the same one with whom I ushered – and I, in spite of not being the type of people to do so, took over the dance floor during the Kool and the Gang show and did the Macarena dance. I have no idea what possessed us to do it, but being children of the ’90s, I don’t think we needed a reason.
Singing melismas A melisma is singing a bunch of notes on one syllable of a word, and Handel’s Messiah (which I spoke about singing previously) has some amazing ones. Listen on the word “born” in “For unto us a child is born” (especially the fun one us altos got from 2:18-2:27):
Welcome to part 3 of “This 25-year-old revisited her teen years. What she discovered about herself will shock you.” [ Part 1 / Part 2 ]
Being in the company of a good friend I’d amend this to “an old friend” today. I’m old enough now to have “old friends” in that worldly, nostalgic sense.
Being alone when it’s really necessary Spoons, y’all. Running out before the end of the day, with forced human interaction in the form of meetings and maybe even class still ahead, can be painful.
Philip Glass There’s a kind of heaviness to what I feel when I hear Philip Glass, especially the Metamorphosis series. I remember the person who introduced me to Glass, and how our friendship has changed over the years, but how comparatively distant it was back then. I remember listening to a playlist that was about 25% Glass on a long, silent bus ride from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon the year after I graduated from high school. I remember clinging onto Glass’s music at Gonzaga, where I desperately needed to let go of aspects of my past, but was unwilling to try. Why was this on a list of “100 things that make me happy,” when looking back, “happy” is the last word I’d assign to what I still feel when I listen to his music today?
Apple products I can’t help it. I was raised on System 7 (and MS-DOS for games, but, shush). I remember the start-up sequence that included the creepy face. I’ve only ever owned MacBooks and iPods. I had a phone with iTunes before iPhones were a thing. It’s in my nature. *silently thanks the computer gods that Sims 4 finally came to Mac*
New Zealand I visited in 2006. Yes, that was ten years ago. Yes, I’m sad it’s been so long. Yes, I went on a Lord of the Rings film location tour. No, I didn’t meet Peter Jackson (though the aforementioned tour did take us past his house). Yes, I would take any (free) opportunity to go back. (Fun fact: if you search for my first name + maiden name + new zealand, you might find some of the photos I took on that trip. I put them up on my old Flickr account and a bunch of websites subsequently used for their own purposes because I didn’t know to put a stricter Creative Commons license on them on account of being 15-almost-16 years old.)
The view from an airplane window at 40,000 ft. None of these were taken at anywhere near 40,000 feet, but I still enjoyed the views:
Going to see SF Giants games with friends I have been to Giants games with friends four times ever, with a different friend each time, and I’m 98% sure at least three of those times occurred after I wrote this list. Maybe all four, and I was just trying to one-up my own pathetic social life. For what it’s worth, those four times – whenever they happened – were pretty great, and I am fairly sure the Giants won each time.
Laughcrying Or, as regular people call it, “laughing so hard that you begin crying.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Crack-Up” “Now the standard cure for one who is sunk is to consider those in actual destitution or physical suffering – this is an all-weather beatitude for gloom in general and fairly salutary daytime advice for everyone. But at three o’clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence, and the cure doesn’t work – and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.” [ full essay set ]
Being familiar with a city I was thinking of Spokane when I wrote this, although not having a car when I lived there actually meant that what I was familiar with was Gonzaga’s campus and Division Street from the Northtown Mall to the convention center. Now, I attribute this entry fully to Iowa City. Iowa City is so damn walkable that I knew where everything was within a few months of moving there in spite of not having a car.
Playing music for others Telemann as a child violinist, Telemann as a [severely depression-ravaged] almost-music major.
Having something come easily to me
I can’t say for sure what made me write this entry, whether I was thinking more generally or of something specific, but when I revisited this portion of the list I thought immediately of alto sax. My first year in the Gonzaga pep band, I played flute. When the other two fellow freshman flautists in the band decided to switch to piccolo for the remainder of the season, I felt bitter and left out even though it was literally the same music and even as a flautist who has dabbled in piccolo I can attest to the fact that flute is a much friendlier instrument. Incidentally, my friend from high school was looking to get rid of her alto sax, and it ended up with me the summer before my second year at Gonzaga. I was able to learn the instrument over the summer (for what it’s worth, the sax and flute note fingerings are the same; I just had to learn how to play using a reed) in time for a show the pep band did at freshman orientation. And then I was one of just two of the band’s alto saxophonists chosen to be a part of the 30-person band to go to Seattle for Gonzaga’s annual game there.
Flash mobs of the epic variety
God, I was so obsessed with the word “epic.”
Really really hot (gay) tenors.
I’m sure there’s an inside joke here somewhere to which I am no longer privy. I don’t even remember if this happened in high school or at Gonzaga, when I was actually in a choir. :(
Knowing someone cares
I’m sensing a theme here. See #41, at least.
Free stuff! My sophomore year in college, my suitemate and I became obsessed with finding websites that would send us free stuff. Any free stuff – we really took the “poor college student” trope to a whole new level. Soon enough, our suite was filled with stickers, water bottles, adult diapers, granola bars, VHS tapes we couldn’t play, and so, so much more.
Hating on Republicans Only when they say asinine things, and only in my mind. But this goes for anyone now, really (including Dems and whoever else).
Actually finding a school that’s right for me I didn’t learn I’d gotten into Iowa until about a month after I wrote my original list, but my intuition in writing this was absolutely correct. Really, all I needed was that initial visit (which was just a pit stop in Iowa City with a friend on our way to Chicago) to know where I belonged. While I’ve obviously left Iowa City since attending school there, I met my now-husband while I was at Iowa, which was kind of an okay thing I guess.
Acapella singing I could never be in an a capella singing group. Too much reliance on individual talent that, frankly, I don’t have. But the group at Gonzaga, Big Bing Theory, introduced me to a capella, and I’m glad I could at least start out at a school where that type of singing was pretty universally adored.
Being a fairly good speller Third place in an elementary school spelling bee isn’t that bad.
Welcome to part 2 of “This 25-year-old revisited her teen years. What she discovered about herself will shock you.” [ Part 1 ]
Parallel parking PERFECTLY (on the 1st try!)
I’m fairly confident this has never happened to me before.
Powerpoints printed as worksheets Still true. However, I originally wrote this question when I had the convenience of “free” (that is, entirely covered by my private school tuition) printing, and I don’t have that anymore. I also prefer to print the slides to take notes when they’re posted before the class, and I’ve only had one professor at Iowa State who’s done that.
Good lord, this is embarrassing. I was Jennifer Lawrence before Jennifer Lawrence was Jennifer Lawrence (and I’m older than her, so I can say that). To be clear, I’m not reacting this way because I don’t still enjoy “gay rights,” but that phrasing is so, so painfully shallow.
Apples to Apples My first experience with Apples to Apples was actually more about my reluctance to play Apples to Apples when I was hospitalized for mental health issues. Every night on the ward, some group of people would be playing Apples to goddamn Apples and even though I knew it was an open-invitation thing I was still too worried about being rejected to join in. Then I learned it’s actually much more fun to play with people you know, and that’s why it ended up on this list.
Psychology Every so often I think about what having a college degree in something means. Purportedly you’ve devoted a significant amount of studying to it, have developed relationships with people in the field, and you could conceivably be considered an expert in it. I don’t really feel like this. My grad school letters of recommendation were written by professors in the rehab & counseling education department (one of my two “second concentrations”) and while I feel like I have an understanding of scientific study design, basic psychological principles, and maybe a few tidbits I can regurgitate to impress people at parties, it still baffles me that I possess a piece of paper recognizing my efforts in psychology.
Professors that are 100% badass I know exactly which professor I had on my mind when I added this item, and he wasn’t “badass” in the sense that most people probably use the word. He was a sort of understated, acquired taste-type badass. Sometimes – he never made it a “thing” – he’d have a YouTube video of a Joy Division song or something, and it was clear he was just showing it to us because he wanted to listen to some Joy Division. He was a history professor, and his lectures consisted of him standing in front of the class and talking about whatever was next on the syllabus, no PowerPoint or anything. It was hard to tell if he planned what he was going to talk about, because he was clearly so knowledgeable about history that it felt like he was just casually telling us about each topic. And I learned a lot! I almost added a history minor because of the classes I took with him. He also let me take a midterm late because my depression kept me from coming in on the scheduled exam date, which was nice of him.
Apple crisp I made apple crisp for the first time ever about a year ago. It’s still one of my favorite things in the world.
Sneaking outside food into movie theaters I didn’t do this at all until high school. When my friends and I would see a movie, we’d generally eat at the Mary’s Pizza Shack across the street, then walk to the gas station next to the theater and buy bags and bags of $1 candy, then unassumingly walk into the theater with our bounty. I doubt that theater would let us get away with that now.
Harry Potter If I were to really go into this, it would warrant a post of its own. I have a story for every book, a story for every movie, and even some Stern Thoughts about how disappointing Pottermore ended up being for all the hype it got. It’s genius, it’s problematic, and it would absolutely be on my “100 happy things” list today.
iChat emoticons :) I grew up a Mac user, and even after upgrading to OS X, I’d use the regular AIM client instead of iChat. I think I may have preferred the authenticity that came with seeing people’s screen names and custom fonts, as opposed to iChat’s first name/last name buddy lists and customizable-only-insofar-as-other-Apple-users fonts and colors. But when I first got my own Macbook Pro before starting college, it was iChat all the way. And I guess the emoticons were just strange enough to be cool, or something deep-sounding like that.
Finishing a really long book I’m awful at remembering book titles and even plots unless they really stuck with me, so I can’t remember what book(s) I might have been talking about here. I assume either something by Italo Calvino or maybe W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, which I may have finished by the time I wrote my original list. Or maybe I was just thinking of a 500-page young adult novel that wasn’t great so much as it was long. That is a satisfying feeling, though, especially when you close a hardcover book and it makes that satisfying thunk.
Reading outside in the sun When did I ever do this? I know for a fact I stopped going outside as soon as I discovered the Internet.
Hugging people who smell nice
I was thinking of a specific person when I wrote this. We don’t talk anymore.
Pokémon My 2007 high school music department trip to Anaheim was all Pokémon, all the time. Pearl and Diamond had just come out for DS, and I was the only person who had Pearl, so everyone else with Diamond wanted to trade version-specific Pokémon with me to complete our Pokédexes, and the person I alluded to in #33 helped me beat the game that weekend, and, and, and.
Finding old photos of myself I don’t remember taking I have Photobucket accounts filled with hundreds photos dating back to 2004, so this happens quite a bit whenever I remember my old passwords and feel like logging into them. And because I’d be an awful, unkind person if I didn’t share at least one, here you go (it’s probably from around the time I wrote the original “100 things” list – note the Rockstar can collection in the background):
The way I make my lowercase “F”s Here’s a good example from my original, handwritten list. I just enjoy how clean they look. (And yes, I do dot my “I”s now.)
Alan Zweibel I started watching the Late Show with David Letterman every night when I was a junior or senior in high school (but only during the summers – I was asleep by 9:30 on school nights). Alan Zweibel was on one night talking about his novel, The Other Shulman, which ended up being quite good. Here’s the video from his appearance:
Teen lit that’s actually quality literature Today, there are a bevy of articles with a title similar to (or exactly) “In Defense of Reading Young Adult Fiction.” I’m not going to link to any of them, but just know they’re there. I think my view on this has changed quite a bit since I wrote this in 2010, because I think I was trying to “cover up” (in a sense) my love of YA when I didn’t really need to. Some “regular” literature is great and some is terrible, and the same is true of YA. I still read a ton of YA, and some of it is great, and some of it is terrible. But it’s not inherently worse because it’s YA. That’s all.
My nostalgia drawer I know of two different drawers this could be, and thinking of either of them is not stirring any nostalgia. Sad!
When things just make sense
Deep, 19-year-old Christine. Very deep.