July Writer Response: Gabe Dellavecchia

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Beth and I have gone through a lot together: a kleptomaniac poltergeist, simultaneous altitude sickness, and enough family drama to write a decade’s worth of telenovelas.

But this was the first time I ever gave her a homework assignment.

When I saw her first panicked post, I thought to myself “Great. I have given her the mental equivalent of a sprained ankle.”

I know change isn’t always fun (they call them growing pains for a reason), but I worried that, instead of giving my friend a chance for professional development and personal reflection, I had managed to upset the delicate balance of spinning chaos that is Beth’s life. It’s like Beth is one of those circus performers with plates spinning on both hands, her head, and her outstretched left foot, and I had come along and tickled her nose. Annoying and potentially disastrous.

But then a miraculous thing happened. As she always does, Beth shook off the shock, grabbed her bootstraps firmly, and hoisted herself back into a standing position, sprained ankle and sprained brain be damned.

By the first deadline, the internet was finally graced with bethbarbush.com, and I could not be more proud. First of all, that Beth managed to make the deadline, but also that her long-coming cyberspace beachhead has been established.

All it took was a few more nights for the bones of her new WordPress site to be stitched together. Even her family health crisis has contributed to the completion of the assignment: with lots of waiting time on her hands, time that could easily be spent fretting, Beth has circumvented some technical difficulties to focus on distilling the essence of her various accomplishments into words.

Because when it comes to Beth, the story at the heart of the matter is really what she is interested in.

As for me?

Well, shortly after writing my chapter assignment, I was lucky enough to land a teaching job for the fall. Suddenly, my own need for an electronic portfolio faded in the face of the logistics of moving from Oregon to Colorado in the next month.

Like Beth, I have made changes to my own assignment to fit my new reality. In one way or another, I have been on the road for about 17 years. My life has been in boxes. In one of those boxes, I had been collecting “important stuff”: ticket stubs, programs, fliers… you know, stuff. I had always intended to compile them into scrapbooks. In the past, I have made elaborate books for the big events: my student exchange trips, my service in the Peace Corps, my time in Japan. But I had never stopped to make a book about the rest of my life… which is the majority of my time. As I was about to toss the program from my graduate school commencement into the box, I decided “This has to stop.”

So, rather than hauling boxes of bits of paper to yet another new home, I sat down, and with the help of old calendars and the internet, pieced together what the hell I have been up to since high school. In many ways, it is the same process that Beth has been going through. Sitting here in our mid-30s and wondering “What is the overall picture here? Are these all pieces from the same puzzle?”

I arranged my bits and pieces into not one, but three, binders. I am now in the process of adding my stories to them: hand-written, in my tiny, close-knit scrawl. I am making my own mark on the books: inscribing the pure memories that are left after all of the extraneous details have long since burned off.

Taking a step back, before plunging ahead to the next chapter.

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

Check out the Living Chapters facebook page to follow the growing pains and progress of the evolving online portfolio.

Visit the June Gallery for images and videos from the Body and Kinesthetic chapter.

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