Let’s play a game. Go to Amazon, to “Your Orders,” and with the year drop-down, find the earliest year listed… and then RT and tell us what the FIRST thing you ever bought on Amazon was. Bonus points for it being nearly 20 years ago. 🙂 #BabysFirstAmazon
We've been using Amazon for a while, so I went and looked up my first order. Unsurprisingly, it was a pile of books.
Vox intexta: Orality and Textuality in the Middle Ages edited by Carol Braun Pasternack
The Formation of the Medieval West: Studies in the Oral Culture of the Barbarians by Michael Richter
The Interface Between the Written and the Oral (Studies in Literacy, Family, Culture and the State) by Jack Goody
From Memory to Written Record: England 1066-1307 by M.T. Clanchy
The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretations in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries by Brian Stock
Phantoms of Remembrance: Memory and Oblivion at the End of the First Millenium by Patrick J. Geary
This stack of page-turners ran me $196.45 on 29 April 1999. I was a senior at Long Beach State University, studying (in case you can't tell) medieval history. I'd talked my way into a graduate seminar, and was writing a paper on literacy in the Middle Ages. These were books I wanted but couldn't get at the university library. Or at least, the ones that didn't cost $$$ each to purchase. There were a few of those, and I got some of them later on, but not with this order.
Looking at the covers now, I want to go upstairs to where all my history books are still in boxes from when we moved, dig some of these out and reread them. Or in actuality, read them through for the first time. While researching for my paper, I didn't read any of the books I used all the way through. I dug through the table of contents and the index to find the useful bits; I didn't have time to actually read all the books I consulted cover-to-cover. But I'm still interested in this topic, and seeing these books again makes me want to settle in and really read them.
I never did finish my bachelor's degree. I'd been having trouble most of my adult life with "getting sick" and losing days or weeks or a month off of work or school. I'm a good enough scholar that I can lose two weeks or even a month out of the middle of a term, and (if the instructor would let me, which was a coin-toss) make up all the work, get good grades on the exams, and pull a stack of As out of the wreckage. But my illnesses, which were a combination of nausea and exhaustion and general... yuck, were getting worse and worse.
Finally, after watching me spend a month lying on the livingroom couch alternately sleeping and staring at the ceiling, my husband dragged me to a therapist, who sent me to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed bipolar disorder.
There's another Amazon order from later that year that marks when that happened; my doctor told me to get some books and read about the condition. (The thing where you lie on a couch for an hour talking to your P-doc doesn't happen anymore. You see a therapist if you want to talk. Your P-doc manages your meds. Appointments after the first diagnostic visit were fifteen minutes, so he wanted me to educate myself as much as I could.) Here's my Amazon order from 22 November 1999:
An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison
A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness by Patty Duke
I chose these two books to start with because the titles suggested the authors didn't BS around about their conditions. Jamison has a PhD in Psychology, IIRC (I'm pretty sure that's it, and that she's not a Psychiatrist, which is an MD specialty) and was diagnosed after she'd been practicing for a while. Patty Duke was an actress I'd seen in a number of things, so there was some familiarity there, at least on my part. I've always been a direct sort of person, and the lack of pussyfooting around in how they described their conditions appealed to me. I learned a lot from their books.
I wasn't aware at the time, but that diagnosis -- marked by the purchase of those books -- was the end of my scholastic career. I had plans to go for a PhD in History, and then teach and do research, and write books of my own. After a couple of years with my P-doc, during which I tried an array of different meds, different dosages and combinations, never with much improvement, I asked him straight out if I could go back to school. It'd been a while and I was getting antsy. He looked me in the eye and said that going back to school would be an expensive mistake.
Well. Okay then.
I was only a couple of classes short of what I absolutely needed to graduate. I spent a ridiculous amount of time getting an AA degree (and now I know why), and took a huge number of lower division history classes, many more than I needed, because they looked interesting. When I transferred up to Long Beach State, their registration system had me listed as a Senior from the day I set foot onto campus because of my transferrable unit count. Which was nice when it came time to get in line to register.
And although I only needed upper division courses, I spent three years at Long Beach State before finally crashing and burning out; the bottleneck was the Latin classes I needed in order to be able to work with primary sources, so I wandered around the history department, with brief forays into a few others, again taking a lot of classes I didn't strictly need, because they looked interesting. I know a lot about history, the European Middle Ages in particular, plus a few other areas that struck my fancy at the time, although I'll admit I'm a bit rusty at this point. I've always wished I'd gotten my scholarly act together sooner, so at least I'd have had my doctorate before everything blew up, and could legitimately write nonfiction on the subject, even if I wasn't up to teaching classes every day.
Although if I'd been able to do that, it would've been because I wasn't bipolar in the first place and I wouldn't have had the problems later anyway. Circular wishing, and all that.
I've written fiction most of my life, and I am published now. I enjoy what I do and find it fulfilling. Still, there's a wistfulness there, if I let myself dwell on it.