Below is what my About page looked like in 2017. Who we are—our identity—and how we share ourselves with the world changes over time. We are becoming each and every day. I like holding on to (and sharing) past snippets like this to document such change, to make the smaller steps more visible.
Hi there! I’m Rebecca and I’m 28 years old.
I feel alive when I’m learning something new or growing in some way. On good days, life feels exciting because I could be doing things months from now that I’ve never imagined doing. Case in point: In August 2017 I began a six-month AmeriCorps term volunteering on ACE’s conservation corps in Arizona. Months before seeing the job posting, this type of work hadn’t even been on my radar.
When I see About Me pages online that pack a lifetime of achievements into a single paragraph, I always find myself wondering But how did that happen? What did the small steps look like in between? That’s what you’ll find in Bit by Bit, another page that will help you get to know me. I much prefer being invited behind the scenes and shown “Look, here’s how it actually happened. These are the tiny steps I took each day and the random happenings which moved me forward. You can do it too, but your journey will look different from mine.”
Here are a variety of ways to get to know me. Click whichever looks interesting, or scroll down to see them all:
On the shelves below are some all-time favorites:
I believe we are and become so many different people in the span of a lifetime. Who I am today is not who I was last month, and I’m excited to meet myself in a year. So what about our thoughts that have been captured in writing—what do they tell us about the person who wrote them? Natalie Goldberg captures my feelings superbly in this passage from “Writing Down the Bones”:
“They were my thoughts and my hand and the space and the emotions at that time of writing. Watch yourself. Every minute we change.”
While I am not my past selves, there are still clues and insight wrapped in the writing of past me’s. So to introduce you to those individuals, here’s a slew of passages from my old journals and writings at various ages:
Age 7: My siblings and I find an injured bird in our backyard. (Likely injured by our dog, Maggie, but I’m oblivious to this fact.) We name it Lucy-Tail-Wing and spend the afternoon constructing a house out of cardboard boxes where she can heal and recover. There’s even a “flying room” where she can practice flying. When we check on the box later, Lucy is nowhere to be seen. To celebrate the occasion, I write the following:
The same year, my mother writes a Christmas letter in which she compares each of her four children to a character in the story of Jesus’s birth. Here’s how she describes me:
Age 9: I’m in fourth grade and my older sister plays violin in the high school orchestra as a seventh grader. This means we drive that way to pick her up/drop her off. I write this letter to the editor of our town’s newspaper because of something I see at the high school each day:
Age 11: I write the following poem in sixth grade for a school poetry collection assignment:
Age 12: I moved to a new town earlier in the summer and keep up with old friends via my Yahoo email address and snail mail. I’m agnostic, though I don’t know the term exists, and afraid to tell any friends or family because everyone I know is Catholic. Here’s a page from my diary this summer:
Age 13: In eighth grade we have daily writing prompts in Comm. Arts. Here’s how I respond to the prompt “What do you want to be remembered for?”:
I’ve wanted to be a teacher my whole life, but in the past year or so I now really want to move to California and become a famous singer and actress. One to-do list in a notebook of mine has the item: write a letter to Disney Channel and tell them I want to be in a Zoog movie. (“Smart House” and “Cadet Kelly” are favorites.) Yes, this is my plan to break into the acting scene: write a letter. The dream!
Age 17: In my college application essay I discuss the difficulty I faced in coming out as an atheist in a Catholic family. Junior year of high school was especially rough because I had to put my foot down and refuse to get confirmed, but still attend confirmation classes all year. After going on to describe my love of logic and science, I weave in my life goal:
Age 18: I’m accepted to UW-Madison, the only university to which I apply. When we register for classes at orientation, I throw my whole plan out the window when I learn of “FIGs”—First-Year Student Interest Groups. I sign up for a 3-course FIG called “Truth and the Meaning of Life,” because it looks interesting. I add Calculus 2 to the mix, because why not, and thus no longer have room for Spanish in my schedule.
During the year I attend a majors exploration workshop, as I have no idea what to major in. Too many interests! Here are my answers to a worksheet at that workshop:
Age 21: As my year studying abroad in Madrid comes to a close, I reflect on how it’s changed my perception of the world and what I want to do post-graduation.
I write, “Before this year I was afraid—well, I didn’t want to finish my studies. College is awesome. I can learn tons of things. I liked my job. There are always cool people to meet, events, music, etc. But after this year, I realized that there’s more to see in the world. More countries in which I can live. More cultures to learn about. I’m going to live an adventure. I’m going to live the type of life that makes people say “I wish I could have done that,” so that I can tell them “You can.”
Age 25: I write the entry below to a prompt from Kim Dinan’s “Life on Fire,” which I read while walking the Camino de Santiago across Spain after a year teaching English in South Korea.
(Now, three years later, pretty much all of this is still true.)
In January I visit two study abroad friends in DC. Being in such a different environment (around politically-savvy people) than I’m used to is refreshing. I reflect on how good it feels to be in a new place and relate this to the travel blog bubble I had been immersed in:
Just a few months later I book a six-week intensive French course in Montpellier, France because I want to learn the language to fluency.
Age 28: After three months slow traveling with my backpack in Europe, I spend four months at my parents’ home during the spring/summer. I grow a garden and read more books than I have any other year. I take my grandpa grocery shopping most weeks and hang out lots with my grandma. It feels like a slow time with less growth, so I remind myself that these calm days are just as valuable as explorative traveling days: