18 May 2009

Leaving North Park, Part 1: The Storm Before the Calm

Everything they ever told me was a lie.  "Your senior year of college will be the best year of your life!" they said, "The second semester will be your easiest!"

This hypothetical "they" were wrong.

"They" clearly were not planning on moving to Alaska come graduation.
"They" clearly weren't planning a wedding during the aforementioned senior year.
"They" clearly took "Underwater Basket Weaving 101" instead of "Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament."
"They" clearly never met Dr. Joel Willitts.  

Joel and I have had a relationship that is--shall we say--tempestuous.  The best example that skulks into my mind is the day junior year that I ran out of his class on the Gospel of John...crying....twice.  Given, the crying was due about 40% to the difficulty of the class and 60% to the fact that it was the anniversary of a dear friend's death, but when a professor sums up his pedagogical history with, "The boys drop my classes and the girls cry", you know you're dealing with one tough academic cookie.  And this cookie does not crumble, not at tears or excuses or even second semester Seniors.  Personally, I like my cookies soft and personable.  But it's the tough ones that teach you the most.  So, why I expected my Independent Study with him to be a piece of cake (or cookie?) is beyond me.  

After the Undergraduate Research Symposium before Finals Week, at which the above picture was taken, I thought I had it made--finish a few papers, forget studying for a few tests, pack up my stuff, slip into that cap and gown, and boogie right down the aisle toward my diploma.  


After a particularly wonderful morning at church and a tasty last breakfast at Pauline's with Josh, Alethea, and Kasey, I returned to my apartment six days before graduation to find an email from Joel informing me that my final paper for my Independent Study was half as long as it needed to be, with half the references it should have had.  It was, in a word, unacceptable.  In two words:  completely unacceptable. 

I had five days to finish it.  And we wonder why I had a two week gap in blogging?

In retrospect, I take full blame for the error.  I should have read the syllabus more closely, I should have worked a little harder during the year, and I should have read more.  But at the time, it felt like the world was crumbling down.  I cried through my first four additional sources and somehow banged out an additional 2,500 words that night, eventually bringing my paper up to about 10,000 words and 40 sources by the Thursday before graduation when I emailed it to Joel with a flourish, a huge weight lifting off me, and a cinnamon roll from Mari in hand.  

I write about this not to gain sympathy or to brag about my extraordinarily long (and probably boring to the majority of the non-academic world) paper, but to set the background for my last week at North Park and my days leading up to Graduation.  The movies have it all wrong.  It isn't all ultimate frisbee and keg stands--at least not at my school or in my life.  I spent the majority of my last week not sopping up every last moment with my friends or spending extra time with my family, but in the library, making a fort out of commentaries on Hebrews, tapping my pencil against the pages and trying not to sigh too much.  I didn't slide into Graduation well rested and giddy, I skidded in sideways with bags under my eyes and the heel of my left hand covered in blue ink from dragging it across pages of notes.  Graduation was the calm after the storm of my Finals Week, and that is why what happened in the next few entries meant so much when it did.  Stay tuned.

For the record, Dr. Willitts's academic rigor pushed me to academic levels I thought I couldn't achieve.  Like all great teachers, I hated him through the process but respect him and admire him so much more in hindsight.  He joins Amanda Schwersky, Dr. Zelle, and the illustrious Mr. Duffy--who made my 14-year-old knees knock together during Freshmen English in high school but who is by and by the most influential teacher I've had--in the list of pedagogues who put me through the refiner's fire to make me way more than I thought I could be.  Thanks, Joel.  And for the record, I was right about the silent 'h'--it's "an honor" not "a honor". ;)


Anonymous said...

Ohhh how I cannot wait ;/

Cindy said...

Hehe have fun!!!