Sunday, March 21, 2010

"I had no idea I was going to write any of this until my fingers typed the words"

Dear friends,

I used to want to be a scholar.

Now, all I want to do is bake a ham and make crafts, while watching slasher flicks.

My roommates tell me to stop talking about wanting to be a real person. My professors used to tell me that as well. My conversations with my roommate can be recorded thusly:

Sara: "I am so excited to be a real person. And be one of those girls who posts pictures of her most recent crafts and appetizers."
Laura: "Everything that you say makes me feel defeated and sad."
Sara: "That's because we don't even have a couch, which severely decreases our real person percentage. Also, our good meals consist of pasta and chicken breasts. No one wants to see pictures of that."

I know that being a real person will also include paying for health insurance and other terrible, terrible things, but in my mind being a real person is the best scenario imaginable. Generally, in my proposed scene, I have a husband. Because if I was not married, I would not have elaborate kitchen appliances which I could use to prepare the appetizers that I would post pictures of on my food blog. Let's be serious. My only options are to be a single hipster who uses a dirty, used blender to make carrot-ginger-root-weed-soup-with-salmon-flakes or to be an adorable spouse who uses my shiny bamboo-colored-angle-edged-serving-trays to present my shark-flavored hummus platter.

Since I don't at all dress cool enough to be a hipster, it is probably more reasonable for me to aggressively pursue ways of becoming adorable. Shall I cut my hair very short and have defined eyebrows? Shall I wear earth tones and occasionally cry? Or shall I take up cross-stitching so that I might cross-stitch, with loving threads, Joshua 24:15: "As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD"?

The opportunities for being a young and adorable potential spouse are endless. What I should for sure do is start going to the farmers' market and women's bible studies.

Then, when I finally bake a ham, I will be able to serve chilled-roasted-oriental-asparagus-soup and talk about how Beth Moore is an amazing woman of God.

Now, Professor Mead, please don't lose all respect for me because of my ham-baking desires. Yes, I showed promise in college, but it was mostly a facade. Yes, I spent all of my time translating Greek and Hebrew and Latin and reading N. T. Wright and Alister McGrath and Raymond Brown and maybe even a little Josephus, but maybe I should have been practicing my quiche-making skills and tearing up at the end of Extreme Home Makeover. While I was sprawled under the desk of an isolation cell in Ramaker Library, trying to convince myself that I could keep pretending to be a scholar, the other girls were shopping around for their chocolate-brown ottomans and matching chocolate-brown bookshelves. Now those girls are able to have dinner parties at which their guests drink wine and sit on their chocolate-brown sofas, whereas my dinner parties consist of pouring some gin into a plastic cup and whispering to the friends whom I like most that they should try to claim one of the two mismatched chairs in the living room with the white, undecorated walls.

Now, religion professors of my past who formed so well to become someone I haven't the skills to become, I know that my current words are disappointing. Why did you waste your time on me? Why did you spend your Saturday traveling to Luther College to hear me give my paper on: "The Composition of John: Social Implications in the Johannine Community"? I stood up behind the podium with my pin-striped pants and used words like redaction, secessionists, and aorist, and I wasted your time. I came to talk to you in your office about why the accent was on the antepenult, and I wasted your time. I sat on the floor of a shower room in Oxford and skyped you to find out where I should go to seminary, and I wasted your time.

Because the truth is, men of the department of religion at Northwestern College, I've got no skills. I always wanted to tell you, but it would have sounded like a plea for affirmation. But this is not a plea for affirmation; it is the truth. It is easy to get your name on plaques for your skills in memorizing dead language paradigms, but it is hard to tell the truth.

And the truth is (and I'm so sorry to say it) is that I want to bake a ham. And I want to put a picture of the ham on the internet. And I want to have a friend that says: "Your great at baking ham!" And I want to not judge her for using the wrong "your."

The truth is (and I'm so sorry to say it) is that I don't want to keep pretending that I can be a scholar for the rest of my life. I don't want to spend another year looking at my flashcards instead of the sky. I do not want to go on another failure walk. I do not want to do the things I used to love with all of my being. And I'm sorry.

I understand if you don't want me to stop by your office the next time I'm in town, but I hope that one day you will come over for hummus, which I will serve while wearing earth-tones which suggest that I am in tune with my emotions.

None of this will mean that you didn't change my life forever. Because you did. Forever. It just means that I will be finding a path that is different from the one I told you I was taking.

For now, though, I will stay in this 3-year time of limbo that is called seminary because you told me to be here. And because I wanted to be here. I will continue pretending to be a scholar and will dutifully write a paper on what Adolf von Harnack views to be the essence of Christianity. I will get As, and occasionally a B+, because I actually still doubt everything I just told you. I will study the gospels and become so giddy that I want to stand up in class and yell. And I will wonder who will end up being right about my future. Will it be me? Or will it be you?

I frankly am not sure, men of the religion department, and so I will keep doing what you have taught me. On Easter day, I will not prepare a ham for me and my neighbors, but will eat Cheerios alone in my room while reading a book on apocalyptic literature. I will not make a craft with women from my hypothetical bible study out of toilet paper rolls, but rather I will prepare for my Church History final exam essays, and I will wonder: "Who's going to win this one? Me? Or you?"

And then one of those days, when I'm eating Cheerios alone in my room, perhaps I will finally comprehend that you will still be pleased with me, regardless of whether I have a food blog or a website that posts my most recent article submitted to JBL.

And perhaps I will realize--perhaps I realize now--that I need to do as my roommates and you all have said and learn how to be a real person. Right. now. With or without proper kitchen appliances or a couch--the time for my life to matter is the time that it is now.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dear friends,

I have decided to real update my blog for the first time in years. And instead of constructing some elaborate piece from my inspired thoughts on my Guest-Checks, I think I'll simply give you a long overdue update on my life.

It is currently the last day of spring break (also cleverly called "reading period"). The football player I mentor left for a crazy week on the beaches of Florida; I stayed home in my sweatpants. 2 years ago, I was in Belfast. 1 year ago, I was in Oxford. This year, I was in my house without a couch on 616 S. Buchanan Blvd. Nonetheless, it has been quite delightful to read some books, relax, and hang out with friends.

That's probably the biggest difference from last semester. The hanging out with friends bit. I think that I have some now, and it makes a difference. "Social needs" is the third level of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, after physiological and safety needs. So last semester, I had bagels and a security alarm; this semester, I have bagels, a security alarm, and facebook event invitations (That's kind of a lie--I don't have any bagels right now). But anyway, I'm very grateful for the friends that I have made. I think that I usually need to have 5 casual encounters with a person before I can think of them as an acquaintance and greet them freely and voluntarily. My roommate Hannah thinks this is ridiculous and asks people if they want to get coffee the first time she meets them. She doesn't realize that this is totally against the rules (of Sara Moser).

I probably have more friends because I have less existential angst. I have no reason to have less angst--my life still has no purpose or direction--but I think I just stopped caring about it as much. Yeah, I'm probably never going to have a career or health insurance or dental, but such is life. I already spent 2.5 years devoting my existence toward reaching a goal that is no longer my goal. Maybe I shouldn't do that again.

In other news, I think I have gotten dumber than I was at Northwestern. Maybe. I just don't care as much about my work here because Vonder Bruegge and Mead aren't reading my papers. Rather, a random doctoral student is, and I'll probably never have that doctoral student as an instructor again. Whenever I wrote a paper at Northwestern for my religion profs, I was convinced that if he didn't like it, then he most certainly would lose all respect for me as a person. This is not something I wanted. So I worked hard. [The next thing I say is going to sound horribly pretentious.] However, here, I feel like being ahead of the curve is as easy as it was my freshman year of college. If you write well, you get a 96 or a 97. So why put forth a lot more effort?

But then I got an 87 on a paper that I thought was pretty good. "Mr. preceptor man," I said, after I had called a meeting in a small room, "I don't really get 87s. Please explain yourself" (I didn't really say that). But I did tell him it was the lowest grade I'd gotten on a paper since Ancient Greek Philosophy my sophomore year, when I'd gotten a B- from Randy on my paper on Plato's Timaeus (I didn't include all of those details). He looked confused and told me he didn't believe in grade inflation (although he wrote on my first paper that he would have given me a 100, if my conclusion hadn't sucked). Anyway, maybe I'm becoming a B student. I don't really know if I'm okay with that. I guess we'll see how the rest of the semester unfolds. Maybe I should stop doing the least possible amount of work necessary to get an A. Because maybe that's not going to work anymore.

In other news, I sprained my ankle about a month ago. That was kind of exciting. I've never really injured myself before. Except for that time when a broaster exploded on me when I was working at the Pizza Corral my senior year of high school. I still have my "lawsuit journal" saved on my computer, in case that ever became necessary. Here's a fun excerpt:

"Tim [my boss] called, intoxicated, asked if we were busy, I told him the broaster had exploded on me – he was not very coherent–asked if I was going to go to the hospital and if I was ok – said he was coming in

Tim & Michelle [his woman] came in

Michelle rubbed aloe vera gel on the burn

Tim didn’t talk much…started making chicken [in the broaster that had just exploded on me]."

But anyway, that's a completely irrelevant story about the one time I was kind of seriously injured. I don't really know how I sprained my ankle; I just kind of fell over when I was walking to school that day. I remember that I had just crossed the street and was very intent on not making eye contact with the people walking by me. And then I biffed it big time. A kind lady picked me up and helped me walk the 2 blocks back home. It was all kind of exciting. I got a boot and crutches. My friends and I used to throw ourselves off the monkey bars in elementary school in an attempt to break our legs and get crutches. It never worked. So I was really excited about the crutches for about 2 minutes. My ankle is mostly better now, but not really. It's just not normal yet, so I'm still wearing a brace and occasionally complaining.

Looking ahead, I have 3 incredibly exciting things to look forward to:

#1 Pete Rollins and Padraig are going to be in Charlotte, NC on April 2nd as part of their Insurrection tour. We met and talked to both of these guys in Belfast, and they both stole our hearts (Padraig, in particular, with his Irish accent and beautiful words about his forgiveness project). I want to go SO BADLY and hope that I can find some people to go with me.

#2 I am going sky-diving on April 10th. It's going to be terrifying (We'll talk later, mom).

#3 I am going to Texas with my family after school ends in May. This will be our first family vacation ever. I used to never want to go to Texas, but now I think of it as a dreamland filled with guns and obese people. I'm so excited.

So I only have 6 weeks of classes left + a reading week + finals. Then I'll go to Texas, and then come back and start my summer field ed. I will find out where I'll be on March 26th, and then I'll let you know. I'm very excited to leave Durham and meet real people. Although it will probably be the scariest thing ever. I'll probably stop being excited and start being terrified on April 22nd. That's my usual rhythm of anticipation for change, anyway.

So that's some of my life right now. I hope you are all well. You should probably give me a call or send an email or something. I would like that very much and would probably wait a month and a half and then respond.