Monday, January 30, 2006

Return of the...Jedi? Mac? Something...

I'm back from my South African adventure, safely on U.S. soil, and tucked nicely into the daily habits of school and work. What am I doing now?

Off-Campus Living
I now live with a friend of mine in an off-campus apartment. While the building is very similar in style to a residence hall, it has a totally different aura. In FARC I left the door open constantly and knew that I'd see friends passing every few minutes. My buddies were close-by and I always had people to chill with because they were right down the hall. Our apartment building, however, is eerily quiet. Unlike FARC or the house where I lived in Cape Town, there is dead silence in the hallways and all the doors are closed. While Ashley and I have a great time relaxing in our apartment, I know that if she's not around, I have to take the effort to call someone and go meet them instead of just wandering down the hall and seeing whoever is around. It was also bizarre to return to the dorm to visit, since I hardly know anyone there. After three years of living in that building and knowing nearly everyone, the idea of being a visitor and knowing only a few people is VERY strange. Mostly I avoid the building altogether.

Graduation... Am I really going to do that?
My credits are totalled, my graduation application is filed, and I'm meeting my last requirements right now. I'm actually going to graduate from college. I am thoroughly overwhelmed by the realization that in a few short months I'll be a college graduate. Graduating from college is one of those threshold experiences, one of the last "steps" to being considered a full adult. Every time I think of that, I do a mental double-take. I know that I can handle the responsibilities. I know that I'll be OK. But, to be honest, I still don't feel old enough. I still feel like a seven-year-old that did the Rip Van Winkle-thing and is waking up to being 21 years old with no idea where the time went. It's strange.

Decisions, Decisions
I have applied to seminaries. Now the remaining steps are waiting for replies, interviewing for financial aid/scholarships/fellowships, and deciding. I remember that deciding to go to college was difficult, but I think (although I once considered it impossible) that there are even more factors to consider in choosing a seminary. I have to consider location, distances from Missouri and Ohio, where I want to eventually settle, what specialties I'm looking for, where on the liberal-conservative spectrum I want the school I attend to fall, whether the school has a good balance of academic rigor and practical preparation, how much flexibility the curriculum offers, what the faculty are like, class sizes, spiritual formation, housing costs in the area, whether it's residential or commuter, diversity in the student body, and how the school will look to the committees on Ordained Ministry that I'll need to get approval from in order to get ordained. There are so many things to consider that I can feel my brain oozing out of my hair follicles. To put it succinctly: Oy.

You want me to do WHAT?!
The process of becoming a United Methodist minister involves running an obstacle course that includes leaping through flaming hoops, dancing on one's hands while balancing spinning plates on one's feet, and walking on water, among other things. OK, not really, but it feels like it a lot of the time. It actually involves doing 2 workbooks, completing a series of interviews with committees at various levels, writing letters and papers, passing a psychological exam, providing five letteres of recommendation, getting a physical, and getting a masters degree. The whole process is excruciatingly long and complex. And it's a bit like a reality TV show, in that if at any point someone doesn't like you or what you're doing, they can vote you off the island and make you start all over again. To some extent, I understand. It's essential to make sure that ministers are trustworthy people who are strong and capable enough to serve in this capacity. At the same time I have to ask: What do my weight or the results of my pap smear have to do with my ability to minister to people? How are those things relevant in any way? Above all, why do I have to make those records open to whoever in the UM church wants to see them? It's incredibly invasive and frightening. I'm just trying to keep from drowning or getting a fatal papercut in the sea of paperwork. After all, the fatal papercut would probably be an unacceptable mark on my physical exam and I'd have to start the whole thing over. Yeesh.