The next step in my life is looming over me without a lot of nice things to say. I vaguely remember my terror before I went to Hamline. I remember how exhausted I was with stretched relationships from high school, how anxious I was to leave that place and start new, in a place with fewer restrictions, especially on the types of relationships that were available to me. I had no idea what was possible, and that was the most difficult part. I believed it would be just as difficult, and in exactly the same ways, that all my previous experiences had been. And I didn’t have the energy to meet my old life with a new face again.
This is how I feel about Chicago. There are a lot of things I’m going into blind, but there are more things that I think I know a thing or two about. I’m scared of the overly academic mumbo-jumbo that I see written all over the place. I’m scared of the overly difficult questions posed by the people there–an academic tool that I fear will be used to pull me away from the things that ignite my life. I am afraid that I will be tethered to this academic jargon, and pulled away from every day people with it. It is much the same way that my English vocabulary and eloquence fell away after a year in Korea. I know that I am naturally introverted, cautious, and a deep thinker. But I have worked hard to become something above that. I cannot let it atrophy, and I already feel the effects of it here, sitting in my dark town home, far away from the kind of boisterousness that keeps me going.
Then, of course, there is the classic fear, the one I felt before Hamline. “What if, in the end, I just don’t fit?” Hamline was a big school with a lot of different people. Chicago is a bigger school with even more different people. But graduate programs are tight knit and close, and with their demands, they rarely wander away. And what about all the oddities in my character: the year abroad, the year teaching, the devotion to the women’s center, the irreverence for academic inquiry, and a serious desire only to make a difference in a community? Even as I type these things, I realize that this is an irrelevant question. Many of the people I met when I visited had spent time abroad. Many of the people I met were in similar situations to me.
I also feel a similar anxiousness to my first few years at Hamline. There was a particular moment, when I was bored at work, in my first semester, when I began looking up all the history courses that were offered. And it dawned on me, after reading them several times over, that there were no courses in Classical history. No Rome, no Greece–nothing before the modern era. I choked a little, now suddenly aware that I had come to a place that was not what I thought it was. The same is happening now, as I browse for courses. I see no liberation theology course, no social justice oriented theories. Only courses on serious theologians that I’ve never heard of before.
Then, of all my fears, there is this one. With three courses considered a full course load, I will have very little time for serious language work. I am so committed to Arabic language. I am so, sincerely, utterly devoted to learning it. But I chose a Christian degree program, with several electives, yes, but with its own biblical language requirements, and all of them with reading goals, not speaking. My biggest fear at this point is that I will be unable to accomplish all of these things–that at the last minute, I will be convinced, once again, that I do not have time for Arabic. I cannot be convinced of that. Fluency in Arabic may be the only thing capable of paying off these enormous loans.
Obviously I will need to have a serious discussion with my adviser right away. My language commitments may cause me to be unable to do the dual degree program that I am so interested in. But I may also be able to do both degrees separately. If I still maintain a commitment to Minneapolis–and particularly to the Somali community, as I have now–it may be more advantageous for me to take a public policy degree at the Humphrey.
There are a lot of unknowns in all of this, and like I said at the beginning, I can see a lot more of the scary ones that I can the happy ones.
I had a dream the other day which spoke to all of these fears. I dreamed that I had to say goodbye to all the Somali ladies, the moms of the kids that I work with. I had to explain to them that I was leaving, but it wasn’t because I was moving. It was because I had died. I had come back as a ghost to explain to them why I wouldn’t be with there anymore. That is what I am most afraid of, that the part of me who is able to be a member of this hodgepodge, chaotic, and beautiful community–the part of me that worked so hard to not be afraid of such sincere interaction–that part of me will die if I go to academia. Part of me insists that it has to, because I don’t want anyone or anything to replace this place in my mind.
So, I have a lot of fears. And very little assurance that they will be answered. Then there is logistics, the nightmare of moving my things, transporting my life, finding housing, paying for it–everything seems too difficult to swallow. But I know that I will get it done soon. I know it will come together in a couple months. I know that I’ll feel safer soon. At least I hope so.