Who Are You?

What It Is

I was born in Sacramento, California and was raised in rural southern Oregon.  I went to a Bible college in Santa Cruz, California to study music, and worked for the same college as its librarian from 1994 until 2006 (with a brief hiatus in Visalia, California, the honorary scent gland of the San Joaquin Valley). I married Judi Kelley Carpenter in 1993 and we have two boys who are currently 15 and 13 years old. We moved to Virginia in 2006, where we currently reside, and I work for the US Geological Survey.

Those are the meaningless facts.  If somebody asks “tell me about yourself,” you inevitably will hit on 3 or 4 subjects: work, family, location and maybe schooling.  Whatever happened to our society that causes us to look at ourselves in term of things and places and structures?  Your job or school does not ground you (although it may grind you). Your birthplace never tells a person about your passions–those people and things we love. Our lives are a glorious amalgam of verbs, and not a list of nouns. Why do we forget to describe ourselves  in a way that ascribes meaning to our past?

So I decided to attempt describing the how and why of my life, rather than the who, what and where. I can tell people I’m 42, but my kids will never understand what it’s like to be 42 (until they’ve jumped that hurdle, of course). I can tell people I was raised in Sacramento, but this has no context whatsoever, other than the reader’s experience of Sacramento. I can tell people I’m a Christian and attended Pentecostal and Presbyterian churches over the years–but I am not another’s perceptions of a denomination, nor of the Church in general. I am my own interactions with these institutions, and nobody else’s.  To say anything else leaves an unhappy reader, bored with the facts.

Jazz hands!

So, here’s a second, and I think, more meaningful self-description:

I’m a limber, mixed-up collection of relationships and thoughts toward the people and places in my life. I love listening to my sons’ banter. I enjoy serving my wife dinner in bed. A night of doing intricate needlework makes me smile. I enjoy cooking with my sons. I strive to leave my friends and neighbors happier than when we encountered one another. I have two boys who are on the autism spectrum. I hope I’m slowly redefining the term minister. I’m afraid to get old and lose my mind. Most of my friends are women. I have something to give you, and I don’t know what it is yet. I’m a romantic stuck in a pragmatic world. My connections with Curry County, Oregon are over 125 years deep. I need to forgive myself more often. I hate not knowing. I love irony, even when it’s painful. I hate pain, even when it’s ironic.

So, which list my biography? Both, I imagine; but the second one has more intrinsic value than the first (which provides you with nothing, unless you’re a genealogist or a debt collection agency). I can’t be proud that I’m 42, but I can be proud of all the feelings, friends, memories and family I’ve accrued since 1968.

Blessings and Happy New Year.


Alex (watching the series finale of Scrubs): The world is his oyster now.
Dan: why isn’t the world his clam? Shouldn’t they say the world is just his bivalve mollusc?
Alex: What about trivalve molluscs? Isn’t that discrimination?
Daniel: How would they know if they would just clam up?


6 thoughts on “Who Are You?”

  1. hmmm…. I like the second one much better, although both lend the reader to a better understanding of *you*. It’s my opinion that the Whos, Whats and Wheres are, as Lee commented, a point of reference. However, while it’s a fact that you grew up in Oregon, or that you have strong Assemblies of God roots, both the readers’ and the writer’s interpretation and perception of what that means is subjective and will vary based on their knowledge.

    Suppose I said that I grew up in Paris, France. Depending on your experience with Paris and Parisians your reactions may vary greatly. Maybe you’ve never encountered anyone from Paris, but have longed to go there for years and years; your interpretation might be “What a romantic place to grow up! That would be so awesome! She must be a sophisticated person if she’s from such a great city!” But maybe you knew a family from Paris who were snobs and constantly looked down their nose at everyone else; then your interpretation might be “Ugh! She’s probably so stuck on herself that she wouldn’t give me any credence, since I come from a small, podunk-town.” Or you might be a strong believer and follower of the media and think, “Everyone from France hates Americans. I don’t want to get to know her.” Your perception of me will be different based on your own background, and while none or all of these things might be true, in your mind, my biography is already partially written.

    Or to take an example from your post… you married someone named “Judi Kelley Carpenter”. If I don’t know Judi, that tells me two things: (1) that you’re married; and (2) your spouse has a name that is typically female, so, if you’re a man, you’re probably straight. But when you say ” I enjoy serving my wife dinner in bed,” that tells me that you’re a thoughtful person who cares about your wife. While both statements are true and valid, the second statement tells me a lot more interesting details about you than the first.


    1. LOL We blame you, Ben; you know that, right? 🙂 Just sayin’…. oops, I meant to say “just kidding!” Don’t be too harsh on yourself, Ben. While we wouldn’t have moved here if it weren’t for you, we didn’t make the decision *because* of you; you were more of a fringe benefit. 🙂 just sayin’…


  2. This was very good Brian! But saying the areas you lived or the college you attended or the church background you have IS necessary in a biography in that for some it gives a point of referance in knowing what has shaped you(personality and attitudes) into what you are now. Question for you. What brought you toVirginia? The other side of the country from where you lived your whole life is a long ways to go.


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