Being Back at the Arbor
This is the first day of classes for Interim, or J-Term here at Spring Arbor University, and this, my friends, is a post about feelings.
It’s weird, being back on campus after a semester long in Guatemala, and after bicycling across North America. In many ways I feel like a college freshman, visiting my high school. The teachers, faculty, and buildings are the same. Permanent structures. However, the people are different. Very different. All of a sudden, I don’t recognize many people. I feel like a traveler coming home to find a house full of people, in shock as to what to do. SAU once felt like home, the one place in the world where I belonged.
In many ways, I still feel like I belong. I have many friends here, and many of my closest friends are living right here, at Spring Arbor University. While Wesley Lawton, Valerie Sartor, and I prepared for class by reading 11 chapters and printing out notes, my friend Melodie came with a box of 5 things for show-and-tell in here Core 400 class. I’m taking Core 300. Oh, liberal arts education.
Campus is different since arriving my freshman year. After biking and living as a nomad for three months, I am less timid, and more friendly and hospitable. I am also less interested in people who are not interested in me, it seems. I have somehow lost the appeal to hang out with ‘normal’ people. Whatever that means.
In this context, it means people lacking passion. The kind of people who stay in their dorm rooms hanging out with their girlfriends, playing video games, gossiping, and watching TV. I’ve just lost interest in investing time into these things. Sometimes I’ve lost interest in the people obsessed with them too. A sin, I am sure of it, but to be honest, in this moment, this is how I feel. I long for people with passion and interests and fire in their hearts for learning. Lord, help me to love everyone to the best of my ability. I’m no better than they are. Remind me God, in the words of Helen Edwards, my Core 300 professor, that “I am just another beggar, searching with other beggars for where to find bread.”
After being in Guatemala and being around people who are the poorest of poor, I no longer take for granted my life as a college student at SAU. I’ve realized I have been more blessed than I could have ever imagined, and to treat my classes as a blessing, instead of a requirement, changes everything. Sure, I can’t like every class. But after prayer and reflection in Guatemala, I’ve learned that often the best thing to do with my time is to stay in my room at night, reading, writing, and studying. Other times the best thing to do with my God-given time is to go out and talk with people, to converse, to debate, to argue, to learn from someone who believes the same things I do, as well as someone who believes something completely different.
Sometimes I just wish I could speak in Spanish all the time. I miss it. Spanish is what I devoted most of my time to in Guatemala, as bicycling was during the summer. I’m not an expert, but it is what I spent most of my time practicing. Back at the Arbor, it feels somewhat useless. In my hometown of Woodstock I would occasionally run into someone from Mexico who I could speak with. On the train from Ann Arbor to Chicago I somehow ended up sitting next to a woman from Spain, a wonderful blessing. We visited my Guatemalan host mother’s sister in Chicago, where we spoke an eclectic dialect of Espanglish.
Back here at the Arbor, I’m refiguring where I fit in. I think I’ll be doing less and less social things and more and more academic things. A New Year’s resolution is to get straight A’s all year, and to join the E.P. Hart Honors program.
I also will be more professional. This involves many smaller goals.
I’m trying new things like using tissue paper to blow my nose, something I’ve never done in my life. I tie and untie my shoes when I put them on or take them off. I will be prepared for each class and wake up early to have a fulfilling day. I will go to bed earlier and write legibly. I will eat with proper dining etiquette and gorge less in the sweets I am so addicted to. I will say “Please”, “Thank you”, “sir” and “ma’am”. I will shave regularly, and keep my hair relatively short. I will tuck my shirt in, most of the time.
In general, life’s been busy. Very busy. So busy, I have not journaled or blogged hardly at all. Today I started my Core 300 class of Spiritual Formation, in which I get extra credit for journaling each day. In accordance with my New Year’s Resolutions, I will strive for excellence with this class. I think it will work. I’ve also started a new job at the Cross Cultural Office on campus at SAU, which I am quite excited about.
Adjusting back into the lifestyle as an American student at a Christian University in Southern Michigan will be interesting.