Saturday, March 20, 2010

Everything in moderation

Hello readers!

I am now a week into post-term Oxford. I've written my last tutorial essay! Spring break has come and gone, and I've now started the SCIO portion of program, British Landscapes. Four days a week  we watch segments of Simon Schama's The History of Britain documentary and listen to lecturers. Sounds fun, right? I have three more papers, two case studies which will hopefully count for a course in the romantics, and my long essay, which will be comparing theories of story-writing between C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.

Most people left for spring break on Friday, but I stuck around until Sunday night, when I left on an overnight bus for Edinburgh, Scotland! I had a really great time, but before I left on Sunday, I had lunch with my Bible study group and visited C. S. Lewis' grave, which was wonderful. The churchyard is beautiful, and his grave is beneath a tree. Having spent two months getting to know him (through books!), I no longer agree with everything he writes, but he will always be the writer who introduced me to story and fairy tales. Visiting his grave was an emotional experience (not too demonstrative, I promise!), and I may go back by myself (my friend Jen was with me at the time). I still have to tour the Kilns though!

So Sunday night, I went to Gloucester Green, the main bus station in Oxford, and caught a night bus to Edinburgh. I made one switch around 1 AM, and to be honest, the ride wasn't very fun. I couldn't really do more than doze, and that was in a variety of uncomfortable positions. Upon arriving around 7:30 AM, I found my hostel, changed clothes, had breakfast and planned my day. I really wanted to see a play or something while I was there, but no such luck. Everything was either too far away or on the wrong day. Oh well! 

That morning, I wandered into a couple bookshops, and of course found some wonderful books! I went to the Elephant House for lunch and stayed for tea, reading That Hideous Strength. I'm sure it sounds really lame to go all the way to Edinburgh just to read, but honestly, it was great. I hadn't read for fun in two months (quite a long time for me), and I just needed to relax. I went to the Writer's Museum after tea and explored the Royal Mile, a long street full of tourist shops, pubs etc. The next day entailed more reading, more tea and more museums (including the castle!)

I loved Edinburgh, but it was really nice to come home to a house full of de-stressed people. I think the next few weeks will let us get to know each other more, and have fun with only a medium level of academic stress :) Plus, my mom gets here in four days and the rest of my family in eleven! I can't wait to show them Oxford!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Where am I going exactly?

Well, here I am again! Today was a pretty normal Saturday, involving sleeping in, procrastinating, lots of Youtube and some reading. In a little less than an hour I will go to Crick house, where the other half of the students in my program live, to watch a movie and possibly play board games. It's always a relief to get out of the house and see other people, so tonight should be fun, plus I get to take a walk under the stars.

Recently I've been feeling a little lonely, I think, although I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe I am more homesick than I've realized - it's a little more than two weeks until my mom gets here! - but I think also I've realized just how little of an impact I am having on Oxford. I certainly didn't expect to storm the University with new, transforming ideas about literature, but now that 8th week is beginning and my last essays for the term are approaching, I am humbled in light of the great work even people I disagree with have accomplished. This week I strongly disagreed with the approach a certain author took in writing about C. S. Lewis, the subject of my primary tutorial, and I felt competent enough to explain why. Nevertheless, this person is a respected academic and has several books published. I think they have me beaten there.

Studying something so intensely as I have for the past two months necessarily brings forth new ideas, and I have so many right now that if I could, I would stay in the library reading and writing for days. Ideas for books have even flitted across my mind. I don't want this week to be the last time I study stories; their power in conveying truth makes me ready to talk about them for the rest of my life. And herein lies the problem: I haven't been planning on continuing my education past a master's degree, and possibly not even that far. Now I know that I want to at least study literature past Messiah, but what do I want to do with it?

Of course, I should have expected my feelings/my plan to change. Every time I get something set in my mind, it changes, either due to my own uncertainty or God's delight in showing me something new. At this point, I wonder what else can happen in the next few years to change my course, but I also feel very ready for 'life' to start. I know, I know - I'm living right now, and I shouldn't always be looking ahead, for fear that I will miss the life I have now. But I'm so ready to stop wondering and just be there, whether that means New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia or even Oxford. College is a period of preparation and development, but to what end? It would be nice to know which target I'm aiming at.

With that said, I do know that part (most) of following God means surrendering control over my life and future and living both with purpose and flexibility. It's a delicate balancing act, this mortal life.