Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What's Fall Without New School Supplies?

Today four* of my closest friends had their last first day at Hillsdale. One is an actual senior, one is student-teaching, and two have one semester to complete due to time-taken-off during the regular four-year gauntlet.

I am trying not to be jealous right now.

I am failing miserably.

Last night, my Big and I went out to dinner with two fellow Kappas. We all met through the fraternity but have become friends on our own. I like that Emily knows I prefer [good] beer to liquor and that she laughs recalling me order a margarita, take two or three sips and casually ask Claire if she'd like it. (I must have had a momentary memory lapse when I ordered it, because I abhor tequila.) I like that Claire and I now share a joke about the waiter who chased me out of the restaurant to give me my container of mac and cheese I had left on the table. I like how close Big and I have gotten post-college.

Living apart from those college friends closest to me has taught me how much I appreciate and depend on them. Humans are meant to live in community. They may be individuals with free will and volition, but people cannot be completely self-reliant. I was reading an article yesterday from the latest American Scholar entitled "Voices of a Nation." It was about American writers defining what is the American book, and thus, the American spirit. The article gave too much credit Emerson and Thoreau (the Transcendentalists always get all the cheers). Melville and Hawthorne are given their due beside Henry James (whose literature mostly involved Americans overseas, I feel like that should not count). 

The community of writers mentioned is important to examine just as the exclusion of some. I say, for example, the mere mention of Willa Cather is not enough to cut it in an article on American literature. She is, after all, one of the best writers of the West- of those who left security, of those who had adventures and souls- and she would know a thing or two about community too. I also think Robert Frost has a few things to add to the conversation as well, like the virtues of a wall and the need of being versed in country things- but he was not mentioned. I am aghast to say Faulkner was not mentioned once in the article and he is certainly a culturally-defining American writer. (How can this be?!) 

Community is not just interactions with people. It's not an abstract idea, either. The Southern writers exemplified this best. Community is a choice. One can choose to be in community or to isolate one's self. One does not have to be friends with everyone, but one does need to freely cooperate in order to succeed. Hillsdale is an example of community. Because it fosters such an attitude, it brings out the best of relationships- that is, friendship and the nurturing of kindred spirits. 

Bear and I had our dance parties. She tolerated my "song of the week" on repeat. WC was there to make fun of me after I opened a bottle of beer, took a sip and immediately had to put my mouth over the top because the beer would foam up nearly every time. MS let me collapse on his floor, even when he was busy. DF and I would dress up extra-nicely when we were tired because we pulled multiple graveyard shifts and no one needed to know. We would know, though. There's a bond of gchatting at 5 a.m., asking how a paper is going. Bets and Panda would come across the hall to lie on our floor to talk, pray and laugh. Walks with Vivy to and through the graveyard will be sorely missed. Proximity to Cup and Lis will never be less than a state's length or width now, instead of across the hall or up a flight of stairs. I want to babysit the Ducklings again and let them treat me like a human jungle gym while playing soccer or reading books on the coach.

To be clear, I don't want to go back to college. Four years was long enough. But the town of Hillsdale's silly motto - "It's the People!" - echoes in the chambers. I just wish we were all together again. College friends are important because they partake in four formational years of one's life. Even if you (the reader, the former college student, etc.) do not stay close with all of them, they've helped form you. They're part of who you are. Even the bad experiences, people and feelings play into character formation- maybe even a little bit more than the good ones. It is through suffering that one truly knows one's self.

College was fun. College was tough. It taught me to really think. It's ruined me, in a way. I am not satisfied with most arguments. I always want to know more, read more, learn more, discuss more. It allowed me to meet individuals I never would have met otherwise and for that, I am grateful.

It's time, therefore, I take my own advice. This morning, I wished DF a happy last first day and told him not to immanentize the eschaton. A bit of an American Studies inside joke, but it is also a reference to our favorite pal Eric Voegelin and a good point. It essentially means, don't try to create Heaven on Earth. It makes me think of the Jewish saying at the end of Seder, "Next year in Jerusalem!"; that is, we won't ever all be together in the same place for an extended period of time until, perhaps, Paradise. Not counting weddings, homecomings and trips, etc., obviously, but even then, those visits more than likely won't be in toto. I shouldn't want it, either. College is an artificial environment and can be misleading. People can't stay stagnant if they are to actually live their lives.

So I happily receive little messages from underclassmen telling me they miss me. I send goofy messages to friends. I write the article of the day (union employees picketing the union, oh the irony!). I think of the days when I too shall return to school. I muse about the virtues of crayons and colored pencils. I sip coffee. I watch the picketers a couple blocks away from my corner office window with a view. In short, my life goes on. I already had my last first day of college, and it was great.

And since you're still reading: watch this. It is awesome. I know it just happened a few days ago, but this would have been GREAT to include in my thesis:

Happy September first! Yes, fall is fast approaching. Today, in 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. Here's W.H. Auden's poem "September 1, 1939" to commemorate the occasion.

Three more good reads:
Archbishop Charles Chaput's address from August 24: "Living within the truth: Religious liberty and Catholic mission in the new order of the world"
2. An uncreative title but good article: "Black Man Goes to Glenn Beck's Rally"
3. H/T to Mike: "How to use an escalator in DC" - Hilarious! (Oh, those were the days!)

Happy Wednesday! And remember: Virtus Tentamine Gaudet! :)

What's a college education without crayons?

*Ben, you not included because you're not physically on Hillsdale's campus. You're in France! But happy last first day of college to you too, dear friend!


  1. Great post!! And oh so true. I do miss Hillsdale and all the wonderful things, like our walks, but I don't miss it either. I had my chance and I enjoyed it, but now it's time to move on. I love your insightfulness and great writing ;)

  2. Julie, it's times like these when I read your writing that I am glad you are out there in the Big Bad World educating people one by one with your words. The way you write is succinct, clear, and enjoyable to read. (I just finished my book review and feel miserable about it. Maybe you could offer me some pointers.) Thank you for the kind wishes. I totally didn't even think of my first day here in France as my last first day of school. I think partially somewhere in me the thought of going to grad school was always there so I guess it didn't really register with me this past Tuesday when classes began. I do have to say I think this post is by far one of the best I have read. You tackled so much and offer so much to people with it. I am trying to do more of that sort of thing with my blog as well by putting up videos, links to further resources, and things of that nature. You do that so well, Julie! I loved the video from Runaway Slave Movie. Amazing words were spoken by that amazing woman! She is absolutely right and I love that you posted this on your blog so I could see it. Totally made my day and just offers further encouragement that we have to continue in fighting the good fight. Especially about what she said about liberals running in the inner cities. That hit me like a ton of bricks. Man, you are good Julie! I love you and miss you tons. A trip to wherever you are is most definitely in order when I get back to the states. You can be sure Vincenzo and I will be rockin it out in high anticipation of visiting you and getting sushi before 2am (cause that's when happy hour ends) at the Dancing Wasabi! Holla!

  3. Ben, thank you for the kind words! I really like that video too. It makes me want to expand on my thesis and maybe even work towards getting it published. I had another person ask to read it this past week, too, which is awesome.

    I can't wait to get half-price sushi with you! Holla back!