I spent the time living with my parents, of course, in my old bedroom from when I was a kid. I did my homework--mostly reading, though I had daily meditation and healing exercises from Joy and I had to stay in shape physically--saw some of my friends, and spent time with my family.
Out in the "real" world (a lot of us call it that, or simply "the world," as in "I was out in the world today," meaning off campus) people make certain assumptions and follow certain conventions that I'm not used to anymore. They even use language differently. There's a whole long list of words that are insults on the outside and neutral or complimentary on campus:
I haven't accidentally used any of these in the wrong context, but I've heard them used as insults (usually jokingly) over the past month from friends and family and it's jarring. I never know how, or even whether to respond. It takes me a couple of seconds each time to realize the words don't mean what I'm used to them meaning, a small example of the kind of culture shock I experience whenever I go back home.
(Lest you think we are overly polite, we have our own insults, too--"patriarchist pig" looms large, as do "Christian dupe" and "cowan," which means "non-pagan." I've heard both of the latter used by people who either did not think or did not care how either would make me, as a Christian, feel)
Even talking about school is difficult because there is so little overlap between our culture and the rest of the world. Yearlings, senior students, masters, staff-masters, candidates, novices, none of these have any direct equivalent outside. My family can't understand half the things I tell them about what I'm doing or why. In a way, I find it easier to talk to my friends who don't know about the school, who think I'm only going to a liberal-arts college. I tell them my homework isn't for a class but was suggested to me by my academic adviser, and they think they know what I'm talking about and we can go on to the next thing.
Allen says that after a while the school's secrets start keeping themselves.
But all this being said, this January I've also gotten used to being home again. I started to move back into that larger culture, so now everything on campus feels strange. I'm told that it will get easier to move back and forth over time, but it hasn't happened yet.
The ceremony itself was interesting and powerful as always. I'd forgotten that the Chapel has a distinct smell--cold air, wool, and honey, from the beeswax candles. Smelling that again brought it all back. I sat next to Ebony and described what everything looked like. Her hands were cold so I kept them warm in mine. Ebony being Ebony, she wanted to sit on the end of our row so she could light a candle. Greg, whose candle she lit, made it easier by subtly moving his candle towards hers so the two could connect.
"Is it wrong that I'm hoping the yearlings saw that and think my eyeballs work?" she whispered to me.
"No," I whispered back. "They'll be wrong about you in so many ways anyway, why shouldn't you get to pick some of the mistakes they make?"
She squeezed my hand.
Watching the graduating students come up--Ollie was one of them. That was hard. I hadn't expected it to be that way--I'm so going to miss him.
And there was a pleasant surprise as well. There are four new mastery candidates this year--and one of them is Arther.
|The man standing at the desk is Arther, back on his first day|