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When I was very young, my older brothers got a Nintendo for Christmas. Reflecting back, I know my parents must have scrimped and saved to get it for them, but at the time, I was just as excited as my brothers were, because now I could watch them play Super Mario Bros. and the Legend of Zelda.  Zelda was (and still is) one of my most favorite video games ever.  I loved the gold cartridge, the funky music and the long quests of Link in all of his 8-bit glory.  My life is not like Link's-- I have not yet wound up in a freaky graveyard where upon pushing on a headstone I uncover a secret passage.  Nor have I mastered a magical flute that drains a random lake, revealing yet another secret passage.  As a matter of fact, as far as video games go, the original Legend of Zelda is about as far as my passion went.  I do however, love the concept of the "quest" that was and is still so prevalent in video games.  So that is how I have chosen to frame this biography-- as a quest.  My quest has always been for knowledge-- and a perpetual semester-based calendar.  First, let me get to my roots.

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I was born and raised on the north shore of Lake Tahoe in a little town called Kings Beach.  There is something that a lot of people don't really know about living in Tahoe.  Specifically, that there are two kinds of people in Tahoe: those who are rich and those who serve those who are rich.  My family fit into the latter category.  While I grew up with people who owned basketball teams and hotels, ran banks, and were the CEOs of companies, my mom was the secretary and my dad was the custodian of my high school.  My parents were involved with my academics from a young age-- I think we all knew that my only way "out" was going to be college.  After my parents divorced, my mother did as much as she could to get me prepared for college, but we were both stumbling through the dark trying to figure out applications and financial aid and all of the stresses that go along with transitioning to college.  I had made it relatively easy for us, however.  After a band trip my freshman year of high school, I knew there was only one place I wanted to go for college: Chico State.  After graduating from high school in June of 1999, I moved to Chico that August and called that city in the North Valley of California home for twelve years. 

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I originally went to Chico State on a music scholarship, double majoring in Music Education and English Education.  However, by the end of the first semester, I knew that I didn't want to teach English or Music, so I had to figure a major that was going to fulfill me, and hopefully get me job when I graduated.  I knew I had a passion for all things film and television and so it was with that mindset that majored in Communication Design with an emphasis in Media Arts.  I absolutely loved the major and had such a great time in college as an undergrad.  My second senior year (yes, second), however, I realized that I wasn't as much interested in the how of media arts as I was the "why" of media.  This was in the early 2000s so online platforms of media and social networking were still nascent, but becoming more popular.  While I knew my interests in media processes and online platforms would require more knowledge, I was completely burnt out on school.  Rather than trying to push through a graduate program then, I decided to take some time off... and become a cabinet designer.

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Upon graduation, I decided the best thing to do with my degree was to let hang it on a wall and let it collect dust.  I took a position as a cabinet designer shortly after graduating, figuring it would be a good way to kill a year or two before going back to school.  Those two years turned into almost six and I might actually still be a cabinet designer if the bottom hadn't dropped out of the housing and building industry in the mid/late-2000s.  I would not have stayed in design out of a love of it.  While it was fun to play "adult Tetris" with design software all day, it was incredibly stressful and I still was curious about the "why" of mediated communication.  As more people began to get laid-off at the company I was working for, I decided it was high time to go back to school.  I once again chose to go back to Chico State for my Master's degree in Communication Studies.  

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The graduate program I entered at Chico State was focused primarily on traditional communication theories and processes.  I was not, however, satisfied to stick with the status quo of the department.  Rather than fitting into the mold of traditional intercultural, interpersonal, organizational or human communication, I chose to focus on the communication of sexual and gender identity negotiations via new communication technologies.  How we chose to come out as a sexual and/or a gender minority online has been of interest to me because of my own experience of perpetually coming out as gay via sites like MySpace and Facebook.  By the end of my first year as an MA student, I knew I wanted to pursue a PhD in communication, which meant two things: one, I was going to have to write a thesis, and; two, I was going to have to leave my beloved Chico.  I applied to several PhD programs and WSU gave me an offer I couldn't refuse.  So as I was finishing up my thesis on the use of social networking sites during the coming out process (which can be found here), I was also wrapping my head around moving to the vast wastelands of Eastern Washington.  

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So here I am in Eastern Washington, halfway through my second year as a doctoral student.  My focus now is on mediated intercultural and gender communication.  Specifically, I am interested in how we use virtual spaces to negotiate the many facets of our ethnic, racial, sexual and gender identities.  While this might seem like a long way from my initial interest in film and television, I believe these topics dovetail nicely with each other.  Studying and coursework take up most of my time these days, but in those rare moments of peace, I enjoy spending time with my vastly better half, Heather, and our very geriatric cat, Gypsy.  Beyond spending time with those two lovely ladies, I also love to cook and the lack of decent restaurants in Pullman has given both Heather and I reason to get creative in the kitchen.  In addition, I am a HUGE fan of the Denver Broncos and football in general, much to Heather's despair, so you can usually find me parked on the couch each Sunday for six months out of the year.  

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In conclusion, I am still on my quest for knowledge.  What I have realized in the past thirteen years since I first started college is that the more I learn the less I know.  Like Link from the Legend of Zelda, every time I think I am finished, I find that there is yet another level to this quest.  Also like Link, sometimes I find myself in the most unlikely of places, say perhaps like Eastern Washington, during my journey.  In the end, however, even though the academic road can be long, hard and frustrating, I wouldn't have it any other way.

If you are like me and this looooong introduction sparked/renewed your interest in Zelda, you can play the original here.


1/10/2013

Rachel, thanks for the post! I was in Tahoe a few years back and had a blast, it is great to hear your tale of the "two" towns as I suspected as much staying there. Your quest metaphor seems perfect and very fitting for grad school life! Or just life, ;-). I feel you on the lack of good eats in Pullman, although I am too lazy to cook! Looking forward to a great semester. Your background in this material will be helpful in the seminar.

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Tiffany Christian
1/11/2013

NOOOooooooo....don't tempt me with the Zelda! I'm having a hard enough time limiting my gaming to WoW and Skyrim. And some kind-hearted friend just bought me Left 4 Dead, but I must resist!

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