Day 41: Well, $#!%...
A foreign and familiar start to this day. I find myself easing out of my CrossFit rhythm and into a morning coffee shop visit before heading to campus to tend to some cleaning, online course stewardship, and whatever else beckons. Reminiscent of grad school days for me, which probably isn’t unrelated to yesterday’s dissertation defense experience.
Though I rarely give it voice, there is a deep fondness I remember from grad school days. I would find myself walking down Princeton’s Witherspoon Street in the springtime, awed at the cherry blossoms. I started at Small World Coffee, with a cup of black tea and a cherry-apple-walnut bagel, toasted, with butter melting. It was the Ivy-League town, its ‘usuals’ that would begin their day this way too, the prospects of journaling or reading or being a college-town familiar myself. After this time of what was really prayer for me, I would then head into the Seminary-specific tasks before me, whether that was research or administration.
Eleven years is a long time to accrue visceral memories, after all. From 1993 to 2004, I journeyed through its offerings for me: Masters of Divinity, PhD, administrative work at the Center for Continuing Education, some adjunct teaching with a practical theology professor (now retired). My life’s ages were 24-34, coming from Pasadena, California teaching in a girls’ school, then finally leaving Princeton to take the practical theology professor job at United in Dayton. I had outgrown the possibilities for me in Princeton, which at some level I knew. But it was jarring to land in a freestanding Methodist seminary, in Ohio, after such formative years in Princeton. My attachment-aversion dance continued for nearly ten years beyond my departure.
Anyone in my relational-webs today has heard most about my aversions, of course. Long-standing, well-traveled tropes of Princeton’s ironies have peppered my story-telling for years: the paradoxes of elitist white-male-norms and yet faith’s Breath of ego-releasing surrender; over-whelming material wealth within mindsets of scarcity, white (male) fragility; utterly unique residential-worship-intellectual community that ultimately de-forms for what ministry is today… It’s like shooting fish in a barrel, really, so obvious it is. And yet I come from the good-hearted, faithful people that were there then, who lived as faithfully as they knew how amidst these paradoxes.
I think I have yet to really reconcile within myself this longstanding Princeton pedigree that has enabled so much of what I get to do today with the increasingly conscious awareness of how separatist (segregationist?), specializing, fragmenting, and dehumanizing that way of being human is, in the end. Every instinct in me has been to distance myself, to shoot those fish in the barrel, even to invite a disdainful fish-fry.
What if deepest Freedom is inviting me to finally, truly, accept that Princeton is unavoidably IN me, which no less recognizes its inhumane, communally-fragmenting histories that yet stewarded gifts I also embody today, in all my own imperfections?
Well, shit (as my mom might say :))... That feels too spacious inside of me now to un-know.