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Who Are You Anyway? Are You Your Resume? *

January 29, 2010

Describing your self in understandable terms–your life-work, your image of yourself, your priorities, what you would like people to think you do, what you do, and what you would like to do next–is a telling slice of reality and aspiration. We should all have a personal curriculum vitae or resume that attempts to describe who we really are and not who we are trying to pretend to be.
• Richard Saul Wurman

I went back to school after working twenty years in the private sector, finished a bachelor’s degree in two and a half years, taught high school and completed a master’s degree at night, worked at a community college, and earned my doctorate while working full time as a teacher educator. I have lots of experience that can be found on my vita (short for curriculum vitae or CV—see http://jobsearch.about.com for a clear description of the difference between resume and CV), but these things that are found on my vita are not all that I am, nor do they represent even a fraction of what I have been, or what I long to become. I have been many women, and I expect to be many more, all of them linked to my dreams for my life.

I created a list of some of the other things I’ve done in my life as an exercise in uncovering what is important to me that doesn’t necessarily appear in more formal assessments of my work. These things also help me understand my life’s throughlines and remind me of things I need to remember if I hope to live with authenticity.

My Vita, Mi Vida • The Other Woman
An Alternative Vita

by Wilkins-O’Riley Zinn (Community College Moment, 2005)

Who am I anyway? Am I my resume?
A Chorus Line, lyrics by Edward Kleban

I have made doll clothes out of crepe paper,
carefully sewing, gathering, ruffling edges.
I have colored hundreds of zinnias in shades of aqua and magenta,
row upon row of carefully outlined petals.
I have designed my own line of clothing for Lucille Ball paper dolls,
crayoning her coordinating hats and shoes and purses on notebook paper.
I have dressed in outfits beautiful to me
and never cared what any other person thought.
I have decorated rooms from coast to coast with cheap treasures
scavenged from unexpected places.
Making home wherever I have been.
I have sequined and bedazzled.
Sewn costumes for many Halloweens.
I have danced and tapped and twirled and done the splits
and backbends off of coffeetables.
And played the piano.
Endless scales and Mozart.
I have sung for congregations and for crowds.
Made a lot of joyful noise.
I have acted. Danced some more. And sung again.
And hung pictures and baskets. Spackled holes.
Listened. Cared.
Worked with stained glass. Learned to make linoleum prints.
Made curtains. Made a home. And another. And another.
I have baked a thousand cookies and then a thousand more.
Pink frosted bunnies with cinnamon candy eyes.
Chocolate chip with walnuts.
Oatmeal with raisins.
Shapes and colors and batches of fudge and
Bundt cakes decorated like Christmas wreaths.
I’ve folded origami animals and flowers and tried to learn to knit.
I’ve wrapped so many presents I couldn’t start to count. Cleverly.
And I’ve done macrame and crewel, embroidered pillowcases and
made dishtowels out of flour sacks.
I’ve created clothing and picnics and parties with a theme.
I’ve costumed shows.
I have taken this and transformed it into that.
Trash into treasure.
Stuff into home.
Wherever.
Whatever.
Life gives. I take. I make.
I have decorated boards with pine cones.
Fringed the edges of burlap cushions.
Designed the table for those very special dinners
with placemats cut and pasted from a rainbow.
I have carved pumpkins.
Led the celebration at years and years of holidays.
Baked a cake shaped like a deer head, antlers made from Tootsie Rolls,
going to five stores before I found the red jawbreaker for his nose.
I have filled pillowcases with newspaper-wrapped gifts.
Used layaway.
I’ve made and I’ve made do. Happily.
Three meals from one chicken.
A half pound of ground beef to feed four–or more.
Taking hints from Heloise, I’ve scrounged and scrimped
and cut the corners off of life.
I have crocheted and hemmed and hah-ed.
I’ve been the ghost of Christmas past.
I’ve dressed in kimonos.
Worn other people’s shoes.
Safety-pinned my bra strap.
Collected books and alligators and shiny brooches sparkling with cold rhinestone fire.
I’ve made spaghetti and biscotti and real cream-filled eclairs.
I’ve baked a lot of apple pies. Cherry too.
I’ve made cinnamon rolls without a mix.
Popped corn in the same pan since 1965.
Patchworked a wedding dress from a thousand gingham and calico pieces.
I’ve used new sheets for festive tablecloths, then slept on them until
they turned to rags. Then used the rags.
I’ve imagined that the dark and empty spaces under the lilac bush
were home, a kingdom peopled by tiny beings
from some other more enchanted life.
I’ve whirled and wished the wind would blow me any place but here.
Made lemonade and sold it for a nickel.
Ice pops from grape Koolaid.
Turned pancake batter into Mickey Mouse and dinosaurs.
Made dolls from hollyhocks.
Porkchops, potroast, meatloaf, and the perfect toasted cheese.
Eggs over just right.
Tacos with freshly fried shells.
Handmade Valentines.
I’ve made you laugh.
I’ve made acorn caps for people drawn on fingers.
And in the dark I’ve flown away, been big and strong and uncontrollable.
I’ve painted walls. Trimmed windows. Hung shutters.
Painted the ceiling royal blue, the crib bright red.
I’ve ordered a high chair from Spain and followed the directions
two days before the birth.
I’ve had less luck with a tricycle from Sears.
I’ve quilted. Made pillows from old bathing suits.
Decorated every where with the leavings from a hundred other lives.
I have made molehills out of mountains and leveled off their tops.
I have stretched dollars and time and energy.
And made something out of not much.
I have measured and packed and made it all fit somehow.
And done it once again.
I’ve listened. I’ve been home.
I have fried chicken, baked chicken, barbecued chicken, grilled chicken,
made chicken taquitos, chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, chicken in a
crockpot, with rice, with stuffing, with garlic mashed potatoes.
I have eaten the burned hot dog and the smallest piece of pizza.
I have fixed what you wanted. I have wanted what you fixed.
I have made pink and white seersucker pedal pushers,
a black satin flapper gown with rows of undulating fringe,
a sailor suit, a lime green mini-dressb
I’ve dusted and I’ve scrubbed and I’ve banished dirt.
I’ve washed dishes and clothes and dirty faces.
Cut the kernels off a wheelbarrowful of corn.
Picked blackberries and strawberries and tomatoes.
Made jam.
Made a lot of messes.
Made a lot of homes.
I have hung Grandma’s Chinese checkerboard in the dining room and
Mama’s souvenir state tablecloths at the kitchen windows.
I’ve made a place for Grandpa’s teddy bear in every living room I’ve had.
I’ve decorated Christmas trees and left them up all year.
I’ve written and I’ve dreamed and I’ve hoped to measure out significance.
I have.

What I discovered after I made my list is that the throughlines of my life include the creativity of “making do” and the longing for home. As I look at my work choices, these throughlines are clearly part of my teaching beliefs as well.

What does your life-list include?

The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves, they find their own order. . .the continuous thread of revelation.
• Eudora Welty

* Thanks to Edward Kleban.

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