Life is complicated. That’s an understatement if ever there was one. Going through the last few weeks of my graduate education, I’m beginning to realize that life is more complicated than I’d ever imagined. Student loans are up for repayment soon (more on that later, I’m sure). The realities of leaving Nashville are confronting me like a sharp pain between my shoulders that I can’t do much to alleviate. I’m fearful of getting out into “life” and making half-hearted decisions about how to make ends meet, and about locating the ends where they shouldn’t be. I’m worried that an intelligent but simple woman like me won’t be able to handle just how complicated life really is.
So I wanted to take stock of a week in my life. Just one week. It’s good for the heart to make little earmarks on life. Twenty years from now, when I look back on my last few weeks of graduate school (the final weeks before I had M.Div behind my name), I think I’ll want to remember some really beautiful things. I’ll want to remember the spectacular that came in the mundane packages.
Of course, I’ll want to remember the drive to class in the morning. Did I take one route, or did I take another? It’s astonishing how patterns change. Almost three years taking one route back and forth to school, and bam! A few months before I leave, I develop a new pattern.
I’ll even want to remember the view from the parking deck. For being a concrete building, it’s got some rather beautiful views. Not a bad place for my car to sit all day, looking wistfully out onto the world.
Certainly, I will want to remember the view of a classroom table. This particular table is in the classroom where I spend the majority of my time this semester (three of my four classes meet here). This picture was taken minutes before the start of my Pastoral Care seminar in Hope and Despair–a fitting topic for someone veritably jumping off the precipice of academic life, as it were.
Naturally, this cup has been my companion through much of the past year, and especially the past few weeks. I call it my “animal friends cup.” Childish? Perhaps. But why not? Sometimes we need tigers and monkeys and giraffes smiling at us. Right?
And what memory of these last few weeks would be complete without a glimpse of stoles? These stoles have become such an integral part of who I am… I make these stoles in the Spring (now, two years in a row), and they will be given to folks whose home congregations will not ordain them because of their gender or sexual orientation. Every Wednesday morning from 8 to 9, I sit in the GABLE Office (Divinity’s office of LGBTQI Life) sewing these stoles.
I sew and I sew. And I iron and I sew some more. I wish I had a picture to show here of these stoles unrolled. They are beautiful. All the fabric was donated by the community, and every stole is unique. Every stole was put together by someone different (though I take up those pieces and sew them). Feeling these stoles between my fingers keeps me feeling “grounded.” Sewing these stoles reminds me that I am more than intellect: I am the work of my hands, and the work of my hands is good. I’d like to remember that one day, when I am tempted to retreat back into a pretend world where intellect is everything.
But let’s not imagine that these stoles are mere physical labor. They are a labor of creativity, expression, and love. I plan stoles. I think about their colors, their weight, their proportions. I think about making stoles when I have that M.Div behind my name…
As much time as I spend inside, I’d like to remember the time I spent outside. Looking out from under an umbrella on a gorgeous day.
I’d like to remember that I ate healthy, that I wrote down my thoughts, and that I read Thomas Aquinas in the lilting breeze of a Springtime afternoon. I’d like to remember this bagel. Oh, delicious bagel.
A huge part of my time here has been spent in this office. Yes, the office. The office where I am a student worker. I sort spreadsheets, I make phone calls, I put together lots of notebooks, and I occasionally organize files. I turn this lamp on to let people know I am in the office (but people still have to ask me my schedule).
But don’t let that serene picture fool you. This is the “business side” of my desk… computer, maps, and pencils and pens to push about. It’s a good little office. It’s also located in a walk-though storage room. I know, I know. It’s a testament to the fact that I am just a student worker. It’s also the reason I give when I consistently wear jeans to an office without so much as a “casual Friday.” “Hey,” I say, “my office is in a storage closet. No one has any illusions that I am too important.”
Being an office worker, I am still aware that I came here to be a student. And what a lovely place to be a student! I’ll want to remember that the discussion rooms on the ground floor of the Divinity building have these beautiful views. Views like this make 8 a.m. discussion groups a lot easier to handle.
But who wouldn’t mind being a student here? This is a view of the outside of the Divinity building where I spend most of my academic time. Classrooms and chapel.
I’d like to remember the beautiful scenery around my school. What gorgeous flowers and reminders of Spring!
The tranquility available…
Even while walking to the library! I wish I had gotten a picture inside the library, but that might be too depressing. I’d like to remember that my final weeks here were not consumed by the dark, cold library. I’d rather remember the walk there.
But perhaps it would be best to remember that in the whirlwind of these last few weeks, I still found time to do the dishes. Such an ordinary, and necessarily repetitive task! But I did it. And I did dishes over and over again. I fed myself well, but not extravagantly. I fed others well, and perhaps more extravagantly than is financially sustainable. I washed more dishes. And more dishes.
Good to remember that one day, when everything else in life tempts me to think only on the extraordinary and to consider the daily things of life to be boring or tedious. Tedium is good, really. It’s the reason why we have schedules, why we commit ourselves to the tasks we do, to the relationships that give us meaning.
What has your week been like? What is an ordinary, spectacular week for you?