25 Things

August 12, 2010  |  Featured, No Sidebar, Personal

Inspired by Corbett Barr’s 33 Things post over at his blog Free Pursuits and a similar post by The Mobile Lawyer, I have decided to tell you twenty-five things about myself.  Depending on how long you’ve been reading, how well you know me, and whether or not we have met in real life, some of these things may be old news or complete surprises for you.  Enjoy.

Marc, to my left, is 5'11".

1.  I’m really short. I’m a smidge over 4’11” (151cm, for those of you on metric), which means that your average middle schooler these days is taller than I am.  I had early growth spurts, and I was tall for my age until I stopped growing at the age of 12.  The chart on my childhood home tops out at 5’0″, and there are a ton of infinitesimally separate tics right at the 4’11” mark, where I continued to measure myself in the hopes that surely I had grown a little.  Sadly, that was never to come to pass, and my short stature also shot my promising sprinting career in the foot as well, as I was soon outclassed by runners who simply had legs far longer than mine.  These days I embrace my shortness, and I feel it adds a bit to my personality.

2.  I took five and a half years to graduate from college, and changed my major three times. I started off in East Asian Studies, then moved to Video Production, then finally moved to Photojournalism.  Somewhere in there I also did considerable studies into creative non-fiction writing and linguistics.  I don’t regret taking so long to graduate, nor changing my major so often.  I feel that I am a much more well-rounded person than I would be if I had stuck to one thing, and as for taking so long, well, I always said that I would graduate when I was ready, and I wasn’t ready until then.  I grew and changed a lot as a person in my final two years of college, and I don’t think I would have done as well in my personal life if I had graduated on time.

3.  I am highly, highly silly. Despite being almost 27 years old, I still act like a 12 year old much of the time.  I love to play tricks on people, to climb trees, and I tend to make a game out of everything.  As a grocery cashier, I juggle produce for small children to keep from going insane.  If you’ve seen the movie Benny & Joon, think of Johnny Depp’s character.

Me practicing devil-sticking

4.  I enjoy finding unusual and indirect ways to exercise. Among other things, I spin poi and juggle devil sticks. Sledding is my favourite, and also an excellent way to burn calories.  Lately I’ve been looking into parkour.

5.  I haven’t read a fiction book in at least 3 years. I stopped reading fiction almost entirely by mid-way through high school, and I have never really picked it up again.  I read tons of books, but they’re all non-fiction.  I have a very good imagination and generally prefer to imagine my own worlds rather than read about those imagined by others.  I also feel that there are enough incredible true stories in the world to last a lifetime, so why should I resort to stories that are made up?

6.  I’m very good at memorizing categorical information. When I was a kid, I memorized every fact about every breed in a guide book of dog breeds and I would have my friends test me on it.  I have also, over the years, memorized the etymology behind hundreds of names.  I’m very good at retaining information, and I have a reputation among my friends for being something of a human encyclopedia.

7.  In college I was given an “Ingenuity Award” for community building and contributions to the college. I found this amusing because it was given to me in my final year, a year in which I was so busy that I barely left my dorm room and due to the nature of my thesis, I was only on campus 3-4 days a week anyway.  In previous years I did a lot of work to try and foster community at Hampshire, so I assume that it was given to me in my final year as sort of a recognition of cumulative efforts.

8.  I used to be a street performer/busker. In high school I would juggle devil sticks at street festivals, and I made quite a good chunk of change.  Having a good knowledge of both psychology and sociology helped considerably, as it helped me to read the body language of potential patrons as well as to know who to target in the first place.

My blue hair!

9.  I used to have blue hair.  Very blue hair. I dyed it with several different blue dyes to give it a “natural” look, and it worked.  I had blue hair for about a year before I finally got tired of the bi-monthly process of redying it.  If I wasn’t a reenactor, I’d probably do more interesting things with my hair than I currently can.

10.  I absolutely love dogs. I was really obsessed with them as a kid, and I still watch the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show every year.  My favourite dog is the Korean Jindo, followed closely by the Bernese Mountain Dog, Shiba Inu, Finnish Spitz, Australian Shepherd, and German Shepherd.

11.  I am somewhat obsessed with being properly prepared for experiences. Before I left for my first voyage as crew on a tall ship, I slept on the floor under my desk for a month to simulate the small, enclosed, low-ceiling’d sleeping space that I would be dealing with while onboard.  I researched all the pitfalls of working in Korea for almost a full year before I even applied for jobs there.  The amount of time and energy I’m spending preparing for The Mongolian Experiment is another good example.

12.  I love long distance driving. During my nine months or so of nomadic wanderings around the USA, I regularly drove 14-17 hours in a given day without much issue.  I keep myself awake by looking ahead at the traffic and trying to predict what cars will move where and how that will effect the traffic near me.

13.  I am an autodidact and love to teach myself new skills. Due to the experimental format of my early education, I learn better from trial and error on my own than I do from being instructed by somebody else, and there are few things I haven’t been able to learn.  On top of this, I feel that there is no skill that isn’t worth learning. One of my therapists a few years ago classed me as a “highly skilled person” and I think that’s an apt description.

14.  I love cold weather and snow. The snowy winters are one of the things I miss most about Massachusetts.  I’ve always said that you can always put more layers on in cold weather, but there’s only so far that you can take them off in hot weather.

Me and my first camera : a Nikon SLR

15.  I’ve been taking pictures since I was about four years old. At my family’s home in Houston, there are several filing cabinets full of photographs I took over the course of my life before the family went digital.  They say practice makes perfect, and I’d say that 22 years of practice has given me a pretty solid skill in photography for someone who has never taken a technical class.  I thank my mother for this one, as she is a professional photographer and I learned naturally from her over the years, which is the best way to learn any skill.

16.  I was once almost expelled from my private middle school because my work was of such high quality that the principal insisted that it wasn’t mine. I had an assignment where each student was supposed to create a small newspaper about a given topic – from writing the articles to designing the look of the thing.  Given that I grew up with a graphic designer for a father, I learned about Quark (an early page-design program) from an early age, and as such, mine looked very professional.  In addition, I did a lot of research, collected primary source interviews, etc.  My teacher insisted that my material was so good that it had to have been copied from somewhere else, and that my parents must have done the work for me, and it went as high as the principal of the school.  It was extremely demoralizing and set the tone for much of the rest of my life: one of my primary motivations and conundrums is trying to convince people that I’m a more talented and skilled person than I may seem to be. It also made me cynical at a young age, as it made me realize that real life does not actually reward hard work.  It has been a bitter pill to swallow, as I hate doing things half-assed.

17.  I think that the USA has some good things going for it, but I have never felt very at home here. I would much rather live here than many places in the world, but there are also many places in the world I would rather live than here.  I have, at times, given thought to becoming a permanent expat, and if I weren’t with Marc, I would strongly consider it.

18.  My favourite book is Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson. I’ve read it more than 100 times, and I collect different editions of it.  I have a first edition that was a gift from my father, as well as an edition so rare that I have seen a copy in a museum (it is an early edition illustrated by a little-known illustrator).  It was probably the most formative book of my childhood and it, along with Treasure Island, instilled me with the love of adventure (and history) that I still have today.

19.  Throughout my life, my parents have told me never to go into their professions of photography and design. I tried for years to avoid both industries, but eventually I gave in, and now I do both!  I now advise people to ignore claims of “Don’t do X profession, you will never earn money/be happy/get out of school/etc.” made to them by friends or family.  Do what makes you happy.

20.  I am stubborn and contrary to a fault. I have infinite patience and a strong drive for vengeance, which comes into play a lot with the stubbornness.  I am also a contrarian and have been known to do things simply because someone told me not to do them.

Photo of me by my mother.

21.  When I was younger, I wanted to grow up to be a hermit. I’m a bit more social now, but I still am not all that fond of people in a general sense and I would love to live somewhere isolated, but no more than 30 minutes from people I know.  It’s this tendency that attracts me to places like Mongolia and Vermont, and also why I prefer to travel solo.

22.  I don’t have a single offline friend from before college that I still talk to on a regular basis. I moved almost 2500 miles away to go to college, and I was happy to get out of Texas, so I didn’t really maintain all that many contacts there.  Most of my pre-college friends have also taken a much more traditional life path than I have chosen, and so we don’t have all that much in common any more.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve stayed the same and everyone else around me has changed instead.

23.  I don’t really drink. I will sometimes have a drink or two when out with friends, and on rare, rare occasion I will have one at home with a meal that compliments it, but in general, I don’t drink.  This has made socializing somewhat awkward while traveling, as I’m just not the drunken party type which seems to comprise the majority of hostel populations.

24.  I have obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder and have been in therapy on and off since I was twelve. I was on a good medication regimen for a couple years, though I had to wean myself off of it due to a loss of insurance.  I’m doing okay without it, but I’d be better on it.  I tell people that being off medication is like knowing that even on your best days, you’re only 75% as successful at life as you could be.

25.  I have had a specific idea for a tattoo for 6-7 years now, but have not had the opportunity to get it yet. It’s a self-designed illustration that ties in my sailing and flying, but I don’t feel it’s the right time to get it yet.  While I’m in Mongolia, I am hoping to get something meaningful to me written down in traditional Mongolian calligraphy and add that to the design.  I believe that tattoos should not only be beautiful, but have personal symbology to be deciphered as well.

Bonus:  I’ve been traveling since before I can remember, literally. My parents used to pack me into the car when I was 1-2 years old and I would sleep in the back seat while they drove around the country, according to my mother.  We traveled to various parts of the country for several weeks each summer during my childhood, and I was given a six week “grand tour” of Europe when I was 14.  The travel bug runs deep in my family, with several generations having been extensive travelers (particularly my grandfather, who visited almost every country in the world before he died, in a time before international travel was easy).


  1. Wow what a great post. I enjoyed reading this. I look up to your travel bug-ness and your honest approach to travel. Also your willingness to discuss your own mental health is very brave. The young picture of you with the camera is adorable.

  2. I just read through this, Kelsey. Wonderful post.

    I can relate to 16. When I was in 6th grade, my teacher could not believe I was able to read three highly challenging books in one week (I filled out these little pink slips of paper) and I was scolded and humiliated in front of the whole class for “lying.” It might be because I had a thick foreign accent, stuttered, and was a recent return to the US after eight years in the Philippines that they could not believe I was able to read those books. They finally tested me and found that I was reading at post-college (not merely post-high school) level at that age and moved me into the “highly gifted kids” program at my school.

    It was a horrid experience.

  3. Had no idea you’re such a shorty, hehe.

    Also, cannot BELIEVE your teacher accused you of not doing your own work! Whoooooa. That blows my mind a little. Poor kid.

  4. I was accused of cheating, too!! I have a really great memory and could memorize things verbatim right out of the book. My teacher in 5th grade said the answers had to be as close to the answers in the book as possible- so I wrote exactly what was in the book. I had to take the test three times before she believed me!!


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