Beginning Again

My last “real” year of school is about to start and I can’t help reflecting on how strange it is. Some people learn nothing in college. Others only learn about non-academic things (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Some only learn academic things, and I think there you might be missing out on some of the richest stuff.

For me, so far, college has been less about learning “things” and more about becoming myself. I think that should really be everyone’s goal and whether that’s through college or something else, I critic society for trying to force us into anything else.

When I tell people I’m an English major, everyone responds, “So you want to be a teacher?” As if English is good for nothing but teaching English. Which really doesn’t make sense given the fact that we teach English in school and don’t expect any of those kids to become teachers. We study it because there are valuable lessons to be learned. I study it because I love it. It is a part of me. It makes me more of myself. And that’s what I love about this next year. I get to continue becoming myself.

Which is kind of terrifying isn’t it?

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Freedom

Never in my life would I have said that freedom wasn’t a good thing. I was born an American, it’s in my blood to value freedom as one of the greatest things in the world. And yet in that same country, we are not free. We pressure each other to submit to this or this worldview and discount the other side entirely when their idea doesn”t entirely work out, as if this is proof that they are wrong. Wrong as a person, as someone who believes something. Wrong because they, as a person, are not right. Because in our society we have this strange idea that one thing is wrong and one thing is right and that’s just how it is.

Freedom is the ability to be yourself without pressure from others. You cannot force me to believe as you do. Christians cannot make a world of Christians by decrying the actions of others, fundamentalists cannot make heaven on earth by creating hell, Republicans and Democrats cannot make their side dominant by decrying the other side as totally wrong about everything.

The most beautiful thing about every person is their experience and perspective. Each person brings an entirely new perspective to every situation and, my God, how glorious is that? As someone too often trapped by their own perspective, how amazing it is that each person has some knowledge to impart on a situation that is possibly completely different than your own?

Freedom is the ability to express that wonderful thing that is You, Yourself. That wonderful creation. I’ve heard many a Christian tout the wonder that is your individuality. The fact that God cared enough to make you, and to make you just as you are. And more than that, God calls you to be your own fullest self. To “die” for Christ is to receive your own life because when you let go of your own desires and start listening, you find what God really made you to be.

So who wouldn’t fight for the ability to be yourself? Can you really live when you are someone else? No wonder people revolt and fight for freedom, because honestly why wouldn’t you if someone took away You?

The sanctity of You as a person is the reason so many things are important. Equality of the sexes, for one. Objectify someone into something you want them to be, all because it is more convenient for you? Come, come. People are not objects. They are living souls with so many things to offer, so much knowledge to share, so much love to give. We are all people. Full of pain, struggle and love. And we should be free to be ourselves.

I will leave this quote with you from Leonardo Da Vinci. “If this outer body of Man seems to you to be so marvelously worked, consider that it is nothing; next to the soul that formed it. In truth, regardless of what they are, it is always something divine that they embody.*”

*translated by myself. Original quote found in the Clos Lucé. “Si cette dépouille extérieur de l’homme te paraît marveilleusement ouvragée, considère qu’elle n’est rien; auprès de l’âme qui l’a formée. En vérité, quel que soit l’homme, c’est toujours quelque chose de divine que l’homme incorpore.”

Hamlin

Well I’ve been in Hamlin, West Virginia for three weeks now setting up our site for participants coming tomorrow. In that time I’ve met people who have asked us for help with minor work projects (it’s my job to go out and find them) and have met some pretty incredible people.

To hear their stories and to experience just the genuine care and hospitality of these people has been incredible.

It’s a lot different than France. So incredibly different. I miss France a lot, although I wonder what it would be like now. Without most of the wonderful people I know actually there, I don’t know what it would be like. Althought even just the small things like walking up the street to the market I find myself missing immensly. Not to mention just speaking French.

But here. It’s such a blessing to be here in Hamlin, West Virginia. Surrounded by some of the kindest people I’ve ever met, hills totally covered in trees and roads you would be insane to drive the speed limit on.

Things I No Longer Understand Since France

1) Pancake mixes. (They don’t exist in France, so I’ve just been making them by scratch and it’s so easy!)

2) Gallons of milk. I mean, liters were working just fine and now I feel cowed by my own milk.

3) American alcohol culture. I just literally don’t understand anymore.

4) The lack of bakeries. Seriously though. Where the hell am I supposed to get pastries and bread?

5) Where’d all the cobblestone go?

6) How am I supposed to go places if I can’t walk there?

7) So…where did the espresso go?

8) You mean I can actually SEE my friends again? Wait. What? They live in the same time-zone? Woah man. One thing at a time please.

In the End There’s Only Love

Well my time in France is done for now and I am back home. As we all know, I will never forget my time there and it is so bitter-sweet to be home. I made some pretty fantastic friends. Friends from different countries, different states and all with the most wonderful views and experiences. I think that might be the hardest part about leaving. Leaving all those wonderful, fantastic people.

What isn’t hard is leaving French University. And that’s the last time I complain about it here! Because I will also miss just how jank the Fac des Lettres was. I doubt I’ll go into a building like it again!

I’m also going to miss this. My home street. The place I walked up everyday for a year. Cobblestones, a sketchy shisha place and the strangest lingerie shop I’ve ever come across.

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France, I’ll miss you. My friends, I will miss you more.

p.s. culture shock is really gonna suck.

It’s The End of the World as We Know It

Exams are done and I don’t have to deal with the French education system anymore! Woohoo! However, as good as it feels to be finally done with school for the year, it also means I’m done here.

So many goodbyes to be said. So many said already.

But in the meantime I’m running like a crazed chicken trying to do EVERYTHING before it’s all over. Including shutting down my bank account, which will be interesting. Oh the glories of French bureaucracy. You might be the one thing in this country I most definitely will NOT miss.