Saturday, May 2, 2009

It's Time

Last week I missed the chance at a smorgasbord and this week, you'll have to forgive me, I'm passing on the weekly ritual of posting commentary on every random thing that has caught my attention throughout the week. For everything this week was, it certainly wasn't gentle.

Next week I'll turn twenty-four and though this isn't a milestone by most definitions, it's a milestone in that twenty-three was horrific and the end of twenty-three is the end of a lot of things for me.

Somehow my birthday has always fallen during finals week of spring semester, this year finals week symbolizes the absolute end to my academic tenure at Idaho State University. I say "the absolute end" because there have been plenty of times I thought I was done here only to end up enrolled again. This time I really am done. This time I really am moving on. Where is the only question that remains.

I've thought a great deal about ISU as an institution recently, but ISU isn't just an institution or a symbol for me. It represent a time in my life that I wouldn't trade for the world. I wouldn't trade the relationships I've cultivated here for anything in the world. And I wouldn't trade what I've learned here for anything. This was evident to me this morning when I received an email from a former professor, now retiring, who reminded me just how wonderful the people here are. There's a special place in my heart for this man. Even his brilliance couldn't overcome my geography ignorance. Even his command of Latin couldn't talk me out of applying German endings to Latin words. I must have been a chore for him. But he hasn't forgotten me which makes me think maybe I wasn't such a bad student after all.

There are plenty of people at ISU that I will remain attached to wherever I go and there are some who have left ISU already and I remain close to them despite the distance between us. I have a colleague now who has become a fatherly figure of sorts for me. His intelligence, easily the most knowledgeable person I've ever met, has stretched my own and has made me want to know more, read more, be more. His friendship will follow me anywhere. A former English professor, whom I've written about directly and indirectly here for years, remains a wonderful support and friend. I was in the middle of a phone interview recently and one of the questions asked was what collegiate course has been my favorite. Without hesitation I could point to my composition course as not only my favorite course, but the course that has left the longest lasting impact on me, both as a writer and student as well as simply the person I am. I chose that class randomly out of the dozen or more instructors who teach composition here, but as I think about it more and more it seems that course chose me.

This week as I was getting my ducks in a row, as they say, and preparing graduate school applications, I received a draft of a letter of recommendation from my academic advisor. She, admittedly, is "hopelessly biased." I thank God she is. As an academic advisor she has shaped the historian I am, she has pushed me in all the right directions, challenging me in ways I couldn't begin to describe, and offering me opportunity after opportunity that I'll be thanking her for the rest of my life. She has been gentle when I clearly needed a little support and a lot of patience. She has been firm, as firm as I imagine this woman ever can be, when I've needed the prodding that has forced me through struggles and situations I didn't appreciate at the time. As a friend, this woman has saved me from myself more than I care to admit. And in the past year as I've battled the largest health barrier of my young life, she has been supportive and understanding of my limitations. I think back to the days before she was my academic advisor and I see how hopelessly I drifted at times, I'm amazed that the student I was then continued on and became the student I am now. More importantly I think back to the days before she was my friend and I am incredibly thankful that she took me under her wing and gave me the gentle nudge to make something of myself and my life.

From time to time I find myself wading through sentiment and the warm memories I have of this place and wonder how anything can possibly top my time here at ISU. Then I am reminded of the red tape and bureaucracy I've battled here and I laugh at the thought of ever encountering an institution greater in their ability to weigh students down in unnecessary administrative burden. I have never fit some predetermined mold of what a student should be. My goals and aspirations have never matched or mirrored those of my classmates. I've always wanted a little bit more out of my education than simply a piece of paper that says I earned a degree. Now I find myself with all of the lessons I wanted out of my education and plenty more that I didn't ask for, wanting simply that piece of paper that says I, too, jumped through the hoops and earned a degree.

I've stopped being the student here that I know I can be. This is in part due to a year of health struggles, eventually leading to spinal surgery and everything that comes with the recovery, regressing and eventual progressing associated with the surgery itself. However, I think the student that I've been this year has also been bogged down in the frustrations of not having a program available to me here that suits my needs, wants and academic desires. Without question, the student that I've been this past year has been ultimately immersed and distracted by a project that no undergraduate should ever attempt on their own--the Stallings Collection. As I move on, a part of me will always stay here with the collection. I've put far more into this collection than my time and at times my resources. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Two or three years ago I may have quoted Goethe in a rather zealous way, pointing to the "mehr licht" quotation that greeted all students who entered my English professor's office. Now I find myself quoting Goethe still, but in a whole different tone: "Ich finde, dass die große Sache in dieser Welt, nicht soviel, wo wir stehen, wie ist in, welcher Richtung wir verschieben." Basically, Goethe is saying that he finds the great thing in this world to be, not so much where we stand, as much as in what direction we are moving.

While I sentimentally close a chapter in my life as finals week approaches and my twenty-third year closes, my twenty-fourth birthday approaching not a moment too soon, I am more than happy to be moving on. It's time.

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