Friday, October 30, 2009


Last night, we did a neat activity in my church small group. When we arrived, two tables were covered in about 50 different photographs, all evocative images depicting various people, settings, and objects. Our small group leader asked us to select one picture that described where we are now in this season of them, then later asked us to pick a picture, in light of the knowledge that God loves us, where we believe that God would want us to be right now. I wish I could find these photographs to share, but they came materials that a Christian organization uses for evangelism, so they are likely copyrighted.

True to my indecisive nature, I looked at every single picture before I chose one. I then asked myself, "Where am I in life right now?" The answer immediately popped into my head with one word, "Moving." I picked the photograph that conveyed the most movement to me: a young woman and a young man running through a train station, limbs and torsos blurred, arms extended towards one another, as if they were running to catch a train and the young man was reaching out his hand to pull the young woman along.

My life is moving forward right now, I know where I'm going in the immediate future, and I know the steps to take along the way. I know where I will be completing my practicum for the next two semesters, I likely know what new job I will take next fall, I know when I will be proposing my dissertation, I know (probably) when I will be applying for internships, and I know what sorts of internships sight I will apply to and have some ideas of where I plan to apply. There's a lot that I don't know, a lot of very important details yet to be decided, and still much flexibility in all these plans, but I know enough to feel sure of where I'm going and to feel confident to run towards these goals. I'm no longer the insecure, clueless first or second year graduate student, feeling like I'm swimming aimlessly and trusting that in some unknown way my classes and experiences will lead to a doctorate degree and a professional license. I recently told one of my classmates that I feel like we're at the last lap (which we're not), and that I feel like we're rushing towards the finish line now. There's still a LOT left to do, but how to get to that once elusive finish line is now much more clear to me. And I'm busy pursuing all those things this semester, much busier than previous semesters. I've had weeks when I've been stressed and exhausted, but God has answered my prayers and the prayers of others to give me energy to mostly thrive in this schedule. It probably helps that I now have a better idea of what the coming semesters and years hold for me and how the things I'm doing now directly relate as steps toward a goal that is being achieved.

I feel good about all these things. But when I looked at the picture of the two in the station, it felt frantic and stressful to me. The two were not sure if they would reach their destination, but they were running like hell to try to make it there anyway. They were reaching out to one another, but their hands weren't quite touching. In the same way, I feel like some things in my life just aren't connecting as they should be. I feel like my busyness is causing me to sacrifice some things for now, and honestly, I sometimes feel like I'm flat out dropping the ball on things I should be doing, but just don't have the time to complete or the mental energy to even remember to do because I am so focused on more demanding things. I don't feel as frantic as the photographed two, which I'm grateful for. In the midst of this busyness, I don't feel nearly as stressed as I could be, and there's been a lot of peace throughout this semester.

For my second photograph, I chose a picture of a young man, a college student I assume, walking away from the camera, toward a beautiful collegiate looking brick building, red backpack strapped to his back, surrounded by old trees who are just beginning to turn into fall colors. As his left foot is turned sole towards the camera, there is obvious movement in this photograph, but the entire scene is crisp and clear, no aspect is blurred in motion. I imagine this young man walking at a steady pace, towards his destination. He's not wearing himself out, he's not tired, he could stop if he wanted to, he's walking slowly enough to notice his surroundings. I believe this captures what God wants for me because I believe that he wants me to keep moving, that he wants me to pursue these goals I'm currently pursuing. I don't think he wants me to change directions or stop, but I think he wants me to continue moving forward at a more steady pace, less frantic, and I believe that he wants me to experience more peace while I move. To feel confident, to trust that my steps are sure. I don't think he wants me to rush nor miss out on what is present all around me.

Afterwards, my small group leader told me how he experienced sadness when I said that I'd be finishing up in a couple of years, "I'm sad for selfish reasons." I almost cried when he told me that. I know it's almost two years away, but for all the excitement I experience about moving forward and reaching my educational and career goals, I will be very sad to leave the people and this place that I have come to love. I shared with him my recent realization that if I decide to stay an extra year, to finish my dissertation and/or become a more competive internship applicant, and if I spend that extra year here, I'll be very happy with that. I thought I'd be eager to leave this place, but it truly has become home to me, a delightful, satisfying surprise. If I am led to stay or return, then that would be amazing. As fast as I seem to be moving, I'd love to slow things down and savor all of this.

Wow, I really am in such a different place than I was just over a year ago. As busy as it may be, I absolutely love this season.

PS - I updated my blog roll. It makes me happy :)


I dislike the question, "What's new?" I prefer the more open-ended, "How are things?" or "What have you been up to?" Those questions anyone can answer, because there are always "things" going on in life and anybody is always up to something or another. But "What's new?" makes me feel some pressure to think, "What is new in my life? What is new to this person? Or what's new this week? Or what big, monumental, NEW thing has occurred in my life recently?" This past summer, I would answer that question eagerly, "Everything's new! My house, my roommates, my job, my practicum, my classes!" But a few months later, the newness of such things has worn off. Nothing right now feels as new as all those things did a few months ago. Completing a learning disability assessment, co-facilitating my fourth group of college students with depression, buying plane tickets to New Orleans, going to a Regina Spektor concert, none of those things seem as monumentally NEW as all the changes that have occurred for me in the past five months.

I also feel like the questioner is fishing for something, like they expect me to share something NEW that will satisfy their curiosity. It's almost as if they're thinking, "Something is new about her, but I can't quite put my finger on what it is . . . " I know it's just a socially acceptable question that us white americans have been conditioned to ask one another when we're curious about another person's life or feigning said curiosity, but I feel like it implies a need for the other person to have NEW, exciting, life-changing events and experiences. Maybe my life is average right now. Maybe the only thing that's new are the clothes I'm wearing. But is that good enough for you? Am I not fulfilling your expectations for my life to be continuously NEW and fascinating?

Even more irritating to me is when I've already been talking to a friend for 10, 15, 20, 30 minutes, sharing about different things in each other's lives, and then the friend asks, "So, what else is new with you?" I want to respond, "I've spent the past 20 minutes telling you about NEW things in my life!" Do they think I'm hiding something from them? That I'm beating around the bush? Or was what I just shared not interesting enough for them? Are they waiting for me to reveal some big NEW event, that all the other things I shared were just leading up to?

I'll have to be honest, as an unmarried person, I sometimes feel like when people ask, "What's new?" that they want to hear about some new relationship development. A new crush, a new boyfriend, a new serious development with current boyfriend etc. Maybe they don't. I don't beat around the bush with those kinds of questions, I straight up ask, "Are you seeing anyone?" "How are you and so-and-so doing?" "Do you see a future with him?" But I feel like many people don't have the guts to ask such straightforward questions about what could be a sensitive topic to someone other than the closest of friends.

Maybe people are just curious about each other, and ask questions that sound ok to ask. Maybe I'm just projecting my own insecurities about the newness of my life onto others. Maybe no one else but me cares how new or old the things in my life are.

Whatever it is, the question still annoys me. Just ask me how I am, pretend to be interested in what I share, and trust that I will share what seems important for you to know.

At least it's a relatively open-ended question, even if the questioner is leading towards something. Last night, my friend told me how her friend kept asking her, "Aren't you sooooo good?" How does one respond to that? "Yes, in fact, I am soooooo good," or, "Actually, no, I'm not soooooo good," or, "Wow, you're right, my life is good, thanks for convincing me of that!"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

the difference between a graduate student and an undergraduate

A graduate student will bike through a sea of maroon-clad fans, past the stadium on her way to the library, toting her laptop, wearing her TCU sweatshirt, looking oblivious to the fact that a football game is to commence in 45 minutes.

Few undergraduate students will ever know the joys of flaunting their complete disregard for decades-held traditions in the pursuit of academic success.

Today, I'm not even a "two-percenter," I'm a negative two-percenter, if that even makes sense in whatever the definition of a "two-percenter" is.