Sunday, August 15, 2004

summer 2004: life 101

When I started to see this summer on my horizon, it scared me. I knew from last summer that this one could not be spent the same way, so I started by deciding that I was going to spend it here in Murray. That thought alone was enough to make me shudder, but at least I wasn't going to spend my time at home accomplishing nothing. I knew that whatever this summer would bring, I would learn a lot. But I didn't know how much.

No, not wild animals, but things like apartments and jobs. I know I complained a whole lot about not being able to find either one very easily. The apartment came to me with more ease, but as with so many things in my life, Brentwood was the last place I wanted to go. Curiously, the thing that originally turned me off about it is the same thing that made me go for it: location. I've learned that I cannot trust my own instincts about decisions, that's for sure. As for the job, I never ended up with one for the summer. And when I wasn't looking, the position I found for the fall fit just perfectly. I'm glad I found it before Arby's called me back. Hopefully, this lab supervisor gig will be good. And the opportunity for tutoring that I kept neglecting to find came to me through an offer from my professor. I guess hunting sometimes really just means waiting.

They change. And change is, more often than not, for the best. My decision to not only live in Murray for the summer, but also to live on my own in the fall has affected several of my relationships. It has made my physical closeness to my family and friends more of a challenge. Facing the fact that I no longer live at home has taken my relationship with my parents to a new and bittersweet level. The reality of the empty nest has set in with my parents, and the reality of attempting to be on my own has knocked me square in the forehead. You would think going off to college would do that, but the summer away has made it perfectly clear.

Time and circumstance have a way of changing relationships for you. Sometimes, this seems unfair, but at least this time, I don't believe I could be more grateful.

I have never quite been the connoisseur of financial things. And I'm still not, but I'm learning. I balanced my checkbook for the first time in my life this summer, and it amazingly balanced exactly. (Intimidated by such succees, I've yet to balance it again.) Writing checks for large amounts has become a habit, and I don't like it. Especially when I don't really have something to replenish my account with. I've also learned that money can cause more problems than the lack of funds. It is the root of all kinds of evil.

The reason, supposedly, that I've been here this summer. I got six hours of credit out of the way, and I truly gained knowledge in both classes. I believe I was very lucky to have Dr. Binfield as a professor before he left Murray State to teach in England. His class, British Literature from 1760, was the first that has felt like a real college class. He did not only teach us about the poetry of dead men, but he also taught us how to think on our feet. I may not have agreed with many of his views, but he offered me the ability to form my own--a valuable lesson. And my special education course was the first education class I feel has been worthwhile. I guess any class is only what you make of it, but this is the first time I actually sat in the classroom and applied what I was learning to my philosophy of education. Personal success in the course was not the letter grade in the end, but having a deeper understanding of all students in my future classroom.

I have learned that I can do some things that I wasn't so sure I could. One of those is living by myself. Despite any confidence I might have displayed, I was not fully convinced I could do it, but I also knew that if I buckled down, I could do anything. With that, I successfully made it to my 8:00 am class every day. Small victories, folks. Small victories. I also learned that my writing is somewhat publishable. A slightly edited version of my short story "Gravel" will appear in this month's issue of The Divinity School that is supposed to come out tomorrow night. I'm such a prolific fiction writer. Maybe one day I'll write something else.

In the corniest sense of it all, I've done a lot of thinking in pursuit of "finding myself," but I believe we all wonder who we really are. And maybe it is a vain pursuit. I have rolled thoughts around in my head, trying to put myself into some category that would give me direction. We seem to think that if we can figure out who we are, we will know what to do. I've nearly caused myself to go into a nervous breakdown about my major and my future, and that's when I knew I was letting myself worry too much. That's also when I realized I was PMSing.

Things in life come full circle. In all the reflecting I did, I could see how it has all been working. And this summer, learning about myself fell hand in hand with learning about God. That is where I found myself. For the past eight or nine summers of my life, I have gone to church camp or Kentucky Changers, and those are great times of retreat. But this summer, I have not found God contained by a week-long event. This marvelous understanding of grace and life itself is not a product of a summer program's spiritual high. It is the peace and joy found in rediscovering a mystery. I've learned that no matter how many doubts I have, there is an immovable faith within me that knows that God is real. I've learned that grace is a gift, and there is nothing I can do to change it. All I can do is accept the gift or decline it. This summer, I've learned that who I am, where I am going is defined by all of this. Call me crazy, but I am accepting this grace. And by doing this, I am not giving up on real life, but I am finally finding it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well Cass, I have to say that I identify with the last 2 parts of this entry. I, too have seeming done things this summer that I would have thought impossible. I now have more faith in myself than ever, and its a nice feeling. I also have a bigger faith in God. I randomly decided to sing with my church's choir at another church (something I used to do reguralrly but stopped shortly after starting college) a couple of weeks ago. I was feeling especially low that day.. just worn out and stressed to no end. But I was exactly where I was supposed to be... every word that was said and song that was sang, was meant for me to hear and I knew it. Someone said the simple words, "God has not forgotten you," and I haven't been the same since. If the same God who made the lame leap and the dumb speak still has time for little ol' me... what on earth do I have to be worried about?