Why so long with no post? I started classes!
My apartment has definitely turned into a home. I have furniture that I like, artwork on the walls, a stocked kitchen. I've started to have friends come over. I'm situated.
Orientation was a week long - emphasis on the long part. So many details and logistics interspersed with lots of touchy-feely meetings about the emotional component of making it through Divinity School. I didn't go to those meetings. I knew I would need the info eventually, but I also knew it wouldn't mean anything until I was actually struggling with something.
I did get to meet some great people. One thing I have learned about the folks here: you can't make any assumptions. Some are Christians and use the word in a way I understand it. Some aren't Christians in a way I also understand. The majority, however, use any number of terms to describe where they fall at some extreme or in the middle, and any familiarity I have with the words they use seems to bear no resemblance to whatever these people are trying to convey. Assuming nothing seems to be the best way to go. More on that as things unfold, I am sure.
Registration could not have been more confusing. For one, you can't register for anything until the day classes start, and you're expected to "shop" twice as many classes as you'll actually take to see what you like best. So bewildering.
My program is half in the Divinity School and half in the English department - sort of. Navigating the position of YDS in the midst of Yale University at large has been the most stressful thing I've faced so far. Whenever I investigate a class "downtown" (outside of the div school on main campus) I find myself in the midst of twenty or so PhD students who are on a very specific track to make it through their giant degree. Professors have no idea what to do with me. I don't have any set requirements for my degree really, so it's very hard to make myself seem like a priority for my professors. It makes for a lot of humiliating "What are you doing here?" questions on the first day of class, and lots of staying late to try to explain myself.
I will dedicate a whole post to explain why grad school is a totally different game than undergrad. I knew it would be, I just didn't know exactly how. The basic difference is that no professor has any intention to transmit information from his brain to yours. You cram all the facts into your head and they will guide you through the way academics are currently talking about them. Actually it's mostly the way academics talk about the way other academics talk about them. Forget any assigned reading. We're on our own to gauge the climate of the class and figure out what we need to read to be able to contribute to the conversation. Phew.
This has all been leading slowly to a little meltdown, which I finally had last night. I feel completely sure that I will fail all of my classes, which, according to the advice I've gotten from friends who've been through it, has me right about on track with anyone else who has ever been to graduate school.
I stayed up late reading and woke up early to this song:
Listen to the words carefully. There are a lot of questions I wanted to answer about my life with respect to the God who created me, and who I love and long for. That is why I came to grad school. "I want to know all the answers," the song says. The lyrics continue, "But I'm learning that these things take time."
And they do. They will take my whole life. I'm here to be a full-time seeker, which never promised to be easy or quick. Actually it pretty much makes an outright promise to be slow and painful.
The tone of this song is of supreme importance, however, because it makes me want to dance (and I do dance when I listen to it alone in my apartment). Today I am committing to changing my tune - I'm here because I want to be, and I have got to learn to treat this like a party. I've written already about how it already feels like my time at Yale is ending too soon. These two years will be a flash in the pan, and if I don't learn how to sprint through it with joy it will be A) miserable and B) a waste of time. No way! Time to remember how to approach hardship with hope - Robert Farrar Capon says (paraphrase) that it is only the hope of mastery that sees the novice through the arduous pain of learning. And hope always feels good, no matter what.