Sunday, January 26, 2014

What J-term is like

For the last two years, I've spent the month of January at home, not doing much of consequence. Interterm at Taylor, or J-term, as it is commonly called, was purported to be strange, some mythological hybrid of class and vacation, homework and movie-watching. Being home seemed like a better option than squishing around my financial aid to figure out how to pay a month's room and board, so J-term remained a mystery to me.

But no more. This year, stars and scholarships aligned, and I got to take a speculative fiction writing course taught by Jeff Gerke. The class itself was excellent. It and a couple of Writing Excuses episodes have gotten me really thinking about applying myself to writing as a craft with a work mindset. But college isn't just about the classes -- it's about the experience! So, what was my first J-term like?

One thing I'd been told was that J-term was supposed to be much more relaxed. You typically only take one class, so schedules aren't crazy, a lot of time the homework's not too bad, and the rest of the time you get to hole up and watch movies.

 I'm taking two classes and I have two and a half on-campus jobs. Also, things got off to a bumpy start because snowstorm.
I took this a few days ago after a lot of the snow melted, it snowed more, and then everything got plowed nicely again. But there is no escaping the wind.
Things were weird for a while because a significant number of students couldn't make it to campus on time, classes couldn't start, but they had a bunch of students living in dorms that needed to be fed. So what did Taylor do? It organized a fleet of campus policemen and other employees to drive students to the dining commons. It was very interesting, and I'm glad my school cares so much.

Eventually, things settled into what must be semi-normal operations. I woke up for 8 a.m. classes. I adjusted to homework. I reverted to being social with people to whom I'm not related. (It's amazing how quickly I relapse when given the opportunity.) Classes and life moved on.

Things were different because some people were home and some new people moved in. At times, I had a ton of work to do and other times I could relax. I had two game nights with friends. I built a snowman. I've watched several movies with my roommate. I wrote 35 pages of fiction and attended a great theater workshop.

I'm glad J-term has room for things like board games, snowmen, and movies. At the same time, the work has been a good mental preparation for the coming semester. Now I have a week left to convalesce, write, and work on theater stuff.

Overall experience, positive. Even including the snowstorm. (The cold never bothered me, anyway.)

And I'm already excited for a new semester.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Fill 'er up

Out of pity for my roommate, I cleaned my corner of the room yesterday. My other roommate is gone for the month, though, so she doesn't get my pity. I am currently using her bed as an extension of my desk. The items on it include a book I got for Christmas, a Bible study, some index cards, a letter I received last week, two skeins of yarn with two partially-crocheted stuffed animals, a hat, a sketchbook, Bananagrams, and my mittens.

I have been feeling like a slothful slug lately. A slogth, if you will. It is the kind of slogthfulness that wants to pretend it's being useful, but not really. "Let's work on that one drawing project. Oh, stuck? Well, let's crochet instead. Or, hey roommate, want to play Bananagrams?" I've been meaning to fix a button on my coat for ages, but I can't even get myself to procrastinate by sewing (which is weird) because it sounds vaguely productive.

We recently had quite a good chapel speaker, and one of the first supporting points he brought up in his message was that procrastination does not give rest. True rest can only be found in Jesus. If I know this, why am I having a hard time with it?

I've started to realize something as I try to catch up on Bible readings and square up my school life. Jesus isn't a gas tank, or an energy drink, or even an oasis. Doing life right doesn't look like a daily dose of Jesus. He doesn't simply work like fuel.

This isn't a criticism of "filling up on Jesus" via communal worship, Bible reading, or prayer. On the contrary, I think a better attitude about some of those things could help me. But reading the Bible every day won't automatically make my relationship with God better.

What does this have to do with me being lazy?

The more I type this, the more I feel like pretty much everything. I had no idea Jesus was going to make an appearance in this post until the following Bible verse popped into my head after I wrote the first two paragraphs:
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. -- John 10:10, NKJV
My life doesn't look like that often. Abundant looks like a life overflowing with fruit, not a bed overflowing with discarded distractions. Jesus isn't supposed to occupy my time. He's supposed to occupy my life. I don't think Jesus is the fuel so much as the combustion chamber, or maybe the combustion itself.

Combustion doesn't necessarily sound restful, but it does sound like a good way to dislodge slogths. I think I'll try it.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Swing of Things

I've noticed before that transitioning between school and home and back is weird, not because it feels unnatural or off, but because it doesn't. Rather, when I get to the other place, the things that happened before feel oddly distant. The new reality is prevalent. In theory, this should smooth the transition, but it doesn't mean I snap back into good school habits the minute I set foot in my dorm.

Here, for your education and enjoyment, is a comparative study of instincts while at home and habits necessary for school.

Home instinct: Wake up in time for Good Eats at 10 a.m. (Too bad Cupcake Wars is on half the time.)
School habit: Be awake at 7:15 to be ready for class and start functioning immediately.

Home instinct: Talk gibberish to pets in high-pitched voices.
School habit: Have actual conversations with roommates, who prefer a normal tone of voice.

Home instinct: Crochet. All. The. THINGS!
School habit: Homework first. All craft projects second, or even third.

Home instinct: Eat when hungry -- which results in not eating till 2 in the afternoon, thus not being hungry for dinner, thus requiring extensive snacking before bed to not end up ravenous in the morning.
School habit: Eat meals at regular times, because the dining commons will close and then you'll have to buy food from somewhere.

Home instinct: Take life at a slow pace. Prioritize naturally, based on what opportunities come up.
School habit: Work according to deadline, or be woefully underprepared.

Home instinct: Get around to projects long abandoned and things left untried, because there is finally time and space for them.
School habit: Do what is necessary, and in down time, rest. Exploration into new territory is too much work.

I miss the openness of being home at a time when I don't have many responsibilities. I like the focus of being at school at a time when I do. The hard part is reconciling my mind from one to the other. It doesn't feel like a big mental adjustment, but the things required of me do change enough that I have to be intentional.

Time to get back into the swing of things.