Going back to school at 30-something to complete a B.A. in a completely different field (from accounting to Religious Studies and Theology) was an interesting endeavor. After many years of legal and business writing as well as crunching numbers, learning how to write academically, including formatting citations and using new technology was quite an undertaking that has proven to be rewarding. All the searchable databases in the library no longer included card catalogues and microfiche. This was amazing! No more correction ribbon and electric typewriters (am I showing my age yet?!) Going to college in 1985 is different then going back to college in 2006.
The transition did not stop with technology and formatting papers. With each class and each instructor, a new transition was introduced on my way to the finish line. It was a very large transition and more difficult when you sit in classes with students your own children’s ages. Add to that the reintroduction of the grammar game; in-text citations or footnote citations, semi-colons or dashes, commas or no comma, etc. With the help of great mentors and patient professors, I prevailed and moved on to my next task (I mean transition) – Graduate School. New professors, new demands, different writing styles, scholarly growing pains in abundance. The research and writing intensified (which is an understatement). Then there is the addition of critical reviews, peer reviews, and multiple presentations. Each professor with his or her own format and requirement. Each with their own style of subjectivity or, if you are lucky, a specific grading protocol with tangible prompts or goals. It is a world of unexpected twists, but, in my opinion, better than undergraduate work.
I compare Graduate School to being pregnant. With each class our mind expands and with each paper we write, it becomes a process much like a woman’s body would go through during pregnancy. We continue to feed our minds and expand our knowledge to the point that you feel like your head cannot retain anything else; there is no more room; you feel as if you are to explode. That essay or project becomes a labor of love that you invest your entire being into to. Like anything else, this process can cause brief bouts of nausea, pinched nerves (especially in your neck), and even cause unexplained bouts of insomnia and exhaustion, but you have to push on despite the times that you just want to give up. The process is long, tedious, full of frustration, time-consuming, and exhausting; simply put, painful. It can also be joyful and exciting.
As one nears the finish line, the process can feel like endless labor where nothing can help except for deep breathing and focus (the CD of ocean music, the walking off the writers block, and the encouraging partner that just needs to find the ice chips). This sensation can also give way to panic. All in all this whole experience is a process full of high and lows – and tremendous emotion; it is a roller-coaster ride that has an impact not just you, but everyone around you. At the end, you give birth to a new creation; one that you created with the support of mentors, advisors, friends, and partners. Some who will just applaud your efforts and never read a word and others that take the time to read your work and admire this new creation.
For the creator, this creation is sometimes met with exhaustion, elation, adrenaline, and/or pride. This new work is a contribution to the growing body of scholarship out there either adding, dissenting, or re-creating an idea that is already out there. Putting this new creation out there for all to see, read, and comment on is difficult and at times scary; it is like your child and you become protective of it, but you want it to be the best so you listen, sometimes endure criticism, and possibly modify or expand this creation into something better. In other words, you are letting this creation grow and blossom into something even more beautiful.
Writing publicly in a forum like this blog helps to promote community and dialogue; engaging, growing, expanding, and sustaining one another. As we all put a piece of ourselves on display in our writing; our opinions, our faith beliefs, and our struggles spiritually and personally. We are putting our children, the product of our writing, research, experience, and education out there for all to see, love, admire, criticize; but hopefully never bully or make fun of. We do not always have to agree and dialogue is always welcomed, actually I would go so far as to say encouraged.
Through this dialogue, we will grow and continue to grow. We are a global community, we come from different cultures, we have the ability to learn so much from each other. It is my hope that within this blog, we can create a worldwide dialogue of mutual respect, tolerance, and even acceptance about the F-word and Religion while we continue to explore the intersection between scholarship, activism, and community.