Journal of the Grad Planet (Vol 2)

Well, I have now successfully completed two of my three Autumn classes here at U of C. I had two exams and two papers. Hebrew Bible had both an exam and a paper, which is due next Monday on the 12th. That seems just forever away, so I’m not worried about it at all.

So how do I feel about Grad School so far?

That’s a terribly loaded question. I’ve spent a lot of time whining about all the things that I hate about this. Most of them surround the feeling that I’ve lost my hard-earned adulthood and adult mentality. The mentality of finals brought back a lot of bad thought patterns that I thought I had divorced myself from. I really just don’t like the way that one must completely remove themselves from the universe for 1-2 weeks. And now that it’s over… I feel lost, confused, with no transition back into reality, and nothing to DO. (Which isn’t true–I have a lot to do, of a different caliber.) I’m also sad because a lot of people leave after finals, and there’s no one to celebrate my hard work with. After all the work is done I realize that I haven’t made a lot of headway socially.

But despite all that, I know there are things that I’ve been really glad to be wrapped up in here. I need to focus on those things, and then I can really deeply consider this experience so far.

So here’s a list of all the things I like right now:

  1. I regularly hang out with people from Egypt, Germany, Spain, Britain, Korea, and all over the US, who have different religious, political, and vocational convictions than me.
  2. I usually just have to go downstairs to find these folks. I cook my meals in a public place and eat in a public place every day.
  3. I’m supposed to be interviewing for a job to work with preschoolers or other kids in the near future.
  4. There may be an option for me to intertwine my I-House position and this other position in order to get some civil-service options rocking on at the I-House. The potential of such an idea is really exciting to me. It may be building castles in the sky so far, but I like that part.
  5. Anyway, my I-House job has given me a lot of opportunities that I absolutely love.
  6. In the past three months, I’ve gone to talks by a retired supreme court justice, the environmental advisor to the Patriarch, the president of the ACLU (and I asked a question!!). Tonight, I’m going to a talk (and potentially assisting, as a part of my job?) at a talk and conversation by the Palestinian Ambassador to the United States, which is also moderated by a scholar whose work was hugely important in the writing of my undergraduate thesis.
  7. I’ve made tremendous headway in Biblical Greek. In three months, I’ve learned how to translate huge portions of the New Testament.
  8. This means I’ve learned yet another premise for grammatical construction. I’ve always loved philosophy of language theory, which says that language is the fundamental construction for relationship with the world and it’s ideas: so different grammatical structures are different ways of constructing the world. That means that I’ve now got minimal but important exposure to the construction of the world based on English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Koine Greek, and Twi. That’s at least 5 different language families, you guys. I tots want to take Hebrew next year, then Arabic the next. I’m addicted to this stuff.
  9. I still geek out with my computer, and I totally love my Anki computer flash card program, which gets me typing in Greek and doing flash cards like a game.
  10. My Introduction to the Study of Religion professor told me that I “asked a good question” on the last day of class, in response to the lecture that he gave on Derrida. I like that I now live in an environment where asking good questions is laudable. (I don’t like that the question nobody seems to ask is “Does that really matter?”)
  11. I like that I don’t have a commute of 2.5 hours every day.
  12. I like that my life is varied, and that I can make it even more varied. I study, I work, I go to talks, I socialize.
  13. I like that I have enough time to really spend the appropriate time exercising every day!! (Though I’ve fallen way behind.)
  14. I like that I’m part of a larger institution which can provide health services, so that I don’t feel like I’m floating aimlessly in anonymous land when I go to the doctor or the mental health doctor. That also extends to community service initiatives, though I haven’t gotten around to going to that office yet. (On my list.)
  15. I like that I have a cohort.
  16. I like that I was able to bring one of my new cohortian friends home for thanksgiving and introduce her to my life! (I don’t like that it made me SUPER homesick, but that’s a different discussion.)
  17. I like that I’m in an environment where everyone is interested in one another, and that the assumption is that you support each other. Over the past three months a lot of people have expressed interest in my artwork, and that is something that warms my heart and makes me feel like I matter, not just in what I “can do” for an organization, but what I do at the core of my being.
  18. I like that this is a place of “forming connections” using each other’s resources, and that…
  19. the first assumption is that we are all indeed going forward to somewhere. Potential characterizes our atmosphere. 
  20. I like that a tradition and an old history also follow me through the things that I do here. (Even though I might not like, and may even hate that tradition, it is even nice to have it to fight back against.)
  21. I love being near the Great Lakes. I went on my bicycle the other day when I needed a bit of inspiration. I rode through promontory point and was met with the gorgeous skyline of Chicago against a horizon of water. Ten minutes from my house–a part of my neighborhood.
  22. I like that I have a washing machine that I can use whenever I want, with a payment CARD rather than quarters.
  23. I like that there is an Aldi nearby, even if I do have to beg people to drive me there.
  24. I like the courses that I’ll be taking next quarter: New Testament, Public Church, and more Koine. (I don’t like that Koine IS STILL AT 8am. But I do like that I’ll still get the opportunity to exercise afterwards.)
  25. I’m looking forward to doing social service in Chicago during the winter with the night ministry as a part of my Colloquium course!

I might as well stop at 25 because it’s a nice logical number. As you can see, there are a few things that have some tension in them, but over all there are a ton of things that I like about being here, and what my life means here. I am very homesick. I am especially homesick after Thanksgiving. I visited home and saw my friends from the Women’s Center, and especially a few of my bambinos. I got terribly sad when I knew that all the theoretical stuff that I did here was stopping me from being there for them, and progressing in a bunch of relationships that I find really, really important to my development as a human being. It makes me feel as though I am choosing the knowledge of things over the wisdom of relationships, and it also makes me feel as if I am regressing to a more immature outlook on changing the world. When I was younger, I thought theory, information, and knowledge could save us. Now, I feel like community can save us. I feel like I’ve gone back to a place where information is supposed to save us, even through I know that theory can only save us in it’s implementation in working for community–and often times it doesn’t work the same way it is posited in the academy. Being in a highly theoretical environment, then, feels like regression. These theories are now discussed without the most important critique of all: actual implementation in the real world systems they discuss. There is a joke around here that the question is: “Well of course it works in practice, but does it work in theory?” That’s all well and good, but the assumption that practice is not an adequate critique of theory is just plain stupid. The question is if it works in practice, HOW does it work in theory, and is that theory an appropriate one? And if your theory doesn’t work in practice, it’s not because people are too stupid to understand your theory, it’s because your theory is WRONG.

Anyway, rant aside… These are my current thoughts on my life right now. I rocked my finals. I don’t think it’s A material, but U of C “A” material is like the second coming of Christ, so I’m not too worried about not getting A’s. Besides, like I joke, my grades never got me a job–my GPA didn’t determine any of the important things I’ve done in my life.  An “A” is icing on the cake, but I’m still eating my cake, you guys.

I close with an article that a clergy friend posted on his facebook, which I was happy to read: The Ten Happiest Jobs According to a University of Chicago Study (and Forbes Magazine). Can you guess which is number 1?

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