Why I'm Writing This

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A few years ago it occured to me that I should write down and post some stories that I frequently found myself telling friends, family, and colleagues. Every time I found myself writing a few page email, I would think about to my idea about posting such things, but was always too busy doing something else to act on it.

In the summer of 2006 my father had his 45th college reunion. A reunion book was put together with submissions from the class. My father ended up writing at length about his life, career, family, and personal philosophy. When he visited my family in California after his reunion, he shared this story with us and I learned many things about my father that I had never known.

In the summer of 2008, I planned to take the summer off after finishing my Ph.D. before looking for a job in the fall. I had a number of personal projects planned for my time off, one of which included overhauling the very dated looking web site, which largely resembled my MIT web site I had created in 1994.

While designing the web site, I found that I created a Personal page without much thought as to what to put on it. I already had short bio on the main home page and a more detailed research and work history in other parts of the site. It seemed rather bland to just have a page of links on the supposedly personal part of my web site. Over lunch at home with Jennifer it occured to create a simple overview of my life like my father had done, talking about all the places I have lived, gone to school, worked, etc. No big deal, just a week or two at most.

As I started writing, things just started pouring out. Weeks turned into months as I continued to write. I would jot more and more things down in note form when I didn't have time to write full prose. At some point, it moved from being some filler website content to being my life story for my kids to read someday. It also became something to share with old friends from back in the day. While I occasionaly make notes on more contemporary events to write about later, I definitely don't want this to turn into the usual web diary or blog. I prefer to wait until a few years or at least a few months have passed to be able to look back with some perspective about what was memorable. At least for now, there are still so many old memories to fill in the details about that I can't image writing about every thing going on now in real time.

Writing about one thing would remind me of another. One of my favorite examples of this was writing about my friend Lisa's wedding, which reminded me of her friend Erika, which reminded me of Erica at a Halloween party of another friend Donna's house, which reminded me that my girlfriend Sarah and I had gone as stewardess and pilot only a couple weeks after we had been dating. If you had asked me before if Sarah and I had dressed up to go to a Halloween party I probably would have said no, but remembering seeing Erika there at Donna's brought it all back.

A lot of people who have given me feedback are surprised at how much I remember since they say their own childhoods especially seem to blur together for them. For better or worse, moving every few years as a young kid helps for placing certain memories, because often they were associated with specific people or places from those times. I also finally went through a lot of old toys, papers, and pictures my mom sent me in recent years which helped with some details as well as recall more memories. Finally, I went through my own saved papers, correspondence, and yearsbooks to get some of the particulars like dates and last names. But I really do remember the things I write about after about the age of two. I do ask my parents to fill in some details about why were on a certain trip or the like, but I try not to just write down things others remember but I don't.

Over a year later I've written a little something about everything but still am constantly remembering new things to write about. I finally finished a draft version of the first chapter with full text and pictures so I decided to write this preface to give some background now that I'm started advertising the completed parts to friends and family. When I told my mom I had finished the first part, she threatened to send more pictures, which scares me after I just spent part of the summer of 2009 scanning over 5000 pictures. Who knows what else new things these pictures will remind me of?

Many thanks to Jennifer for putting up with this yearlong and continuing project. I also want to thank friends and family for answering questions, reviewing details, and for their feedback.

Brian D. Carlstrom
October 2009
Los Altos Hills, California

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Brian D. Carlstrom