Today I found myself questioning how I might go about the character development for the protagonist in one of my stories. I took a step back, and thought that blogging about my own character development might help with this writer’s block…
Stage One: Making Lemonade out of a Liz Lemon (I’m a Tina Fey fan)
I began my growth like most beings do, inside my mother’s womb. I was an accident child, and the reason my mother couldn’t drink on her wedding day. I was also the first child, which meant my birth was the start of several trials and tribulations my parents had yet to experience. Not only was I the first child, but my parents were the first among their friends to have children. Their only comparison for how to raise me came from their own families. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I found out I was unplanned, for some reason this knowledge seemed to put a new spin on my conception of my existence. But who was I to complain about confusion of my origins, my own father was adopted with limited knowledge of his birth parents. Lucky for me, mine stuck around. But we jumped too far ahead…
Stage Two: Girl Gone Wild
At two years old I was running wild with my primitive instincts. I was eating anything and everything including the cat food, moving furniture three times the size of me outside the house, attempting veggie forging in my mother’s garden, fighting off our jungle cat by the name of Cotton, and writing caveman narrative images on the walls in crayon all in the modern loin cloth coined as a Huggie.
Stage three: Independence
Once I learned to speak in full sentences, I learned I had a voice which meant I now had another tool to fend for myself. I was now a step above the cat. Well this spiraled into a huge web of defining “me” “my” and “mine.” I was five, not them… me. I was hungry and I wanted Lucky Charms for breakfast. I was making my own drawings, feeding myself, dressing myself. Hell, I could even go to the bathroom on my own. It was a big year for me.
Stage four: If you can’t beat ’em Join ’em
Kindergarten was death to my independence. I suddenly realized independence and originality were separate things. There were other beings my height doing all the things I was. What’s more is my mother had just gave birth to another one of us. My time was ending and I had no clue how I could change my toys, my teacher to our toys and our teacher. I knew it was over and I caved. I kicked and screamed and cried. I didn’t care anymore, I wanted my mom. Tough love happens early when you mom discovers free daycare. I learned early on that it was easier to share and be a part of the team that to resist. In the end, it wasn’t half that bad. I got to be start student, and so did everyone else.
Stage five: Full potential
Once I learned to write and play games with other kids I had two things going for me: creative drive and competition. At this point I was in my prime. I was writing stories, illustrating stories, I was writing letters, recipes for mud stew, and even secret codes with my friends. I became a team player and an athlete on the playground. However, with four square, everyone was the enemy. Life was great, I got to spend all day learning new things and take breaks to kick some ass on the playground, and mom always had snack waiting for me when I got home. Plus, I now had a mini-me in training. She wasn’t far behind from becoming my Robin.
Stage six: Hormones are a Bitch
As elementary school came to an end, my tomboy nature was being hit hard. I had a massive crush on one of the guys I played baseball with. Suddenly I was just like the pigtail girls who whispered on the bench,pointing and giggling while my bros and I were playing baseball on the field. I was losing my game, suddenly I was nervous and I was more concerned about impressing than winning.
Stage seven: The Black Spot
I read a book once and they referred to the black spot as the curse of death. Any girl will tell you its not black, its red. I did not handle this phase of life gracefully. I was a raging lunatic for weeks prior and when it came I was Niagara falls. I could take my chin getting split open, but this was murder. This was a sick twist on “pain is beauty.”
Stage eight: Can’t We all just get along?
Post indoctrination into womanhood, I became fairly social and community oriented. I hung out with everyone, though the social groups were very defined, I seemed to be welcomed into each. I found strengths in everyone and I made it a mission to make everyone get along. You guessed it, I was ASB president in 8th grade. I felt like I was running for president. People wrote in my year book that I would be president or a kindergarten teach when I grew up. Lucky for me, I still was un ware of the corrupt nature being politics. Instead I was being brainwashed by a leadership cult *cough* I mean class. I was walking on sunshine.
Stage nine: Totem Poll
When I got to high school, I was back to being the baby, but people don’t treat you like a kid in high school. They treat you like a disease they have to fight off, or at least that was the case for me. I found a community of odd ones who didn’t care that the pretty people gave us stares. We played hacky sack and smoked Black & Milds. Wild eh? They were also the emo/punk promotional types. I learned that converse were in and so was black. Everyone died their hair in unatural colors, but I was too scared to do that to my parents. I rocked the flaming red curls.
Stage ten: An artist is born!
I worked out a lot of internal mess with middle school. There’s a lot to comprehend at that age. Words seemed to always put things into perspective. I could understand my experiences by documenting them. In high school, this wasn’t the case. Writing made them more complex. Art on the other hand… art explained it all without an explanation. I was painting in class, during lunch, and afterschool. I set up a studio in my parents garage. I was even commissioned a few times. I think the two greatest gifts I received at that time in my life were a sketchpad and headphones.
Stage eleven: Back to the Future
I didn’t have the option of going back to the future like the professor. There was only one shot to make this shit happen and that shit was college. I worked two jobs in high school to make that happen. It wasn’t half bad. It consisted of a lot of free pizza. By the end of my senior year I had a car, it was packed, and I was headed to Humboldt County for my undergrad at HSU
Stage twelve: Freshman Year
We all know this: its anything goes while trying to keep up with grades. Sex, drugs, and alcohol… all in the name of a quality education.
Stage thirteen: Art School is Cool
I took my art studies pretty seriously, our Art Department not so much. My professor, yes. I had a mentor and her name was Erin. She was insane and I loved it. I also loved T. As an artist, you are either in love or in pain. There’s no middle ground in art school. Once you get out into the real world, there’s hope for more, sometimes. I was in pain before I stepped into the room of easels, and then suddenly I was in love.
Stage fourteen: First Love
Its the honeymoon stage that never ends. First love is unconditional, because you have no clue what the hell is going on. You are infatuated, inspired, devoted, emotional, and bound to another being for all eternity. You discover yourself to be much much more than what you thought you were and you think you’ve rediscovered life all over again. Perhaps, you’ve even found the secret to life.
Stage fifteen: Loss
I lost my first love and my grandmother within a month of each other. I learned a lot about death, letting go, and family. This was a longer stage to go through. Suddenly I had to see myself as an individual again. Who was I without love? I was an emotional wreck, that’s what. I became a snapper, and by that I mean I went to Spoken Word nights and I snapped my ass off. I also found my lack of intimacy to be healed with Salsa dancing. I was radiating sex, and I didn’t care. I still went home alone.
Stage sixteen: Over It
At one point or many points in your life you begin to get over yourself. You realize you aren’t that special, but life is and you should take advantage of that. I spent my last year of college teaching others and building a stronger dance community for students and locals. I was hosting dance nights, grading papers, and filling out graduate school applications.
Stage seventeen: Oh shit
Graduation is the scariest moment ever. Suddenly you have to move on, do something different. No more just showing up and doing work, you have to actually be proactive, move to a new place, hold your breath and dive in hoping you will resurface from the real world once again.
Stage eighteen: Unemployed and Alone
Remember when I said I was over it? That’s when I had financial aid, a community, was teaching, finishing up a degree, and had a job. I moved to Portland without any means of income, without any knowledge of how to get around, no map or smartphone, and no friends. I will admit, self pity hit hard when I was living on rice, bananas, and mac and cheese. In the midst of really understanding what a recession meant, I resigned my position in the graduate program at Portland State. I figured debt wasn’t worth this kind of stress. I found work as a nanny.
Stage nineteen: Kids
Kids will teach you all sorts of things, but they also heal you. They bring you deeper into life in a good way. They challenge you and inspire you, and I will always treasure my walks with Tober to and from school telling each other stories about purple squirrels and rainbow rabbits.
Stage twenty: Lost
There have been and will be many times I feel completely lost, like I am just going through the motions and I can’t quite explain why I am doing the things I am doing…. and this was one of them. I spent a good year exploring new relationships, caring for an austistic child as a means of income, painting, and wandering aimlessly. But it all got me to where I am today, as my mother would say.
Stage twenty-one: Diving too deep.
I was offered a job that was way beyond my capabilities. I had no experience in Information Technology, what did that even mean? I found out fast and I mean fast. On a weekly basis I was learning new material (a binder full of material). I was taking certification exams and spending my weekends doing 8 hours labs online and closing with a bitch fest and beer with my collegues. I embarked on a mission I really had no clue was about. I was to pass the JNIPE hosted at Juniper headquarters. I had six months to do this. They say its like taking the bar for Juniper Networks. They were serious. I lost my shit a couple times. I was studying day and night, scratching my eyes out after configuring and managing devices all night and then practicing teaching this material back to my boss and colleagues the next morning. It was hell, but it was an education that was not only free, it paid.
Stage twenty-two: The last mile
I wanted to quit, but I couldn’t. I hated what my life had become, but I had come too far to quit. How could you train for a race for six months and not even show up to the starting line? I was flown down to Juniper HQ and nearly shit my pants. I was one of three women I saw the entire time. The only reason there were two others was because one worked with me and the other was attending the international conference being held that weekend. I learned what its like to be young, inexperienced, a female in a male dominated environment, in front of important people with fancy business cards along side your nervous boss, and to not give a fuck. I was nervous my first hour of teaching, and then the Liz I knew inside me came out and I just wanted to be happy. I wanted others to be happy. The two men also being examined had 30 years more experience on me and knew their shit. Its pretty funny if you think about the situation. But I did what I did best, I smiled, and I gave it my all with no real expectation that I would pass. But you know what… I did.
Stage twenty-three: Standing up
I had accomplished a lot in my life and experienced quite a bit, but it doesn’t mean much unless you understand the value and the lesson learned. I was still learning a great deal about life and one was taking ownership of my own. I finally decided I would start making proactive choices for myself instead of seeing what happens down the line. I quit my stressful job, I put myself out there and applied to some pretty big name companies. And you know what, they took the bait. I was flown to another state and offered a teaching position within a week. I was offered a few, actually. Instead of just going with the more attractive one, I thought about my life and the quality of it. And here I am now.
Stage twenty-four: 24
I am twenty-four and I am finally finding the balance. I work for a great company, I help others, I am still working with technology, I take time to dance and meet new people. You should always be meeting new people. Some need to travel the world to feel comfortable to do so; but I don’t care wherever you are, say hi to a stranger. There are too many people on this earth and each one can teach you something. I am also writing again, on a daily basis. I am finding comfort being in my own shoes and I am not living life like art school: In pain or In love. I am simply living.