Monday, August 3, 2009

Distilled to 10 pages and 45 minutes

This weekend saw Jennifer and I spending loads of time together at home and virtually none of it with each other. Instead, we each sat in front of our respective computers -- me at my desk, Jenn wherever caught her fancy thanks to her laptop -- and worked on our autobiographies for our home study virtually all day Saturday and Sunday.

The challenge wasn't trying to figure what to put in so much as what to keep out. We were presented an outline with detailed questions about our lives with family and friends, our careers, our marriage, our views on parenting and discipline, motivations for adoption, finances, our home, our plans for the future, and more.

The outline was 3 pages long.

We were each given a target length of 5 to 7 pages for our completed response.

My initial outline of the facts and some key observations, leaving virtually everything out, was 24 pages.

I was completely and totally screwed.

When I was in high school, I was asked to turn in a 10-page paper. I turned in a 20-page tome. I have a habit of overwriting sometimes.

By Sunday afternoon, I had it condensed to 14 pages of text. Then I resorted to an old homework trick -- I played with the layout though instead of condensing the margins, increasing the font size, and expanding the leading between lines to make it longer, I expanded the margins, cut my typeface size by half a point, and made a few other tweaks.

Now I was at a full 12 pages.

It was killing me. I wanted to answer the questions as completely and truthfully as possible. How could I possibly do so in when the outline was almost half the length of my assigned document?

I was trying to distill 40 years of experiences into less than 2 pages per decade. Sure, a straightforward list of family members' names, my career chronology, etc., would have shortened things up dramatically but was that really the point?

Our adoption counselor, M, wanted the autobiographies to assess our fitness as prospective parents, to get a sense of how we'd approach parenthood, what experiences good and bad we'd bring to the table. I desperately wanted to do well, to make the case that yes, Jennifer and I will be good parents and will love and cherish our Plus One. A recitation of names and dates would serve no purpose, provide no insight, offer no color.

In the end, I managed to get it down to 10 pages, joking that if I extracted the 3-page outline, I was right on the mark for the document length. Of course, I cheated a bit with hyperlinks out to various blog entries both here on 150 Steps and on my other blog, Walks in the Marsh, to provide greater insight.

Still, I look back over what I wrote, what I submitted to M and wonder -- did I provide enough information? is there something in there that will raise a flag? will my desire to be a dad...no, to do my utmost to be a great dad...come through? Will Jennifer's new passion to be a mother -- something everyone who knows her can see blazing from her like a beacon -- and her sublime skill and connection with children emerge from her own 10-page autobiography?

We'll find out tomorrow afternoon at 4PM and 5 PM when we sit down with M for 1-on-1 discussions about our lives, this time distilling it all down not to 10 pages but to 45 minutes.

Wish us luck.

1 comment:

karinmc said...

Ahh the bios fr the home study. Been there - done that and I do wish you luck. Nice to see an adoption blog from the male perspective. I will definitely check in from time to time.