Well, folks, as of yesterday, I’ve done it. I’m done with all the schoolwork I’ll do… for now.
It’s a little anticlimactic, really. Chances are good that I’ll be going back to school again, just not right now, so this isn’t an I’m-done-with-school-maybe-forever moment. I’m not really even done with the semester yet: there’s grading to be done, and another exit survey to complete, and copies of my thesis to be printed, bound, and returned to various new homes. I’m staying in town, so I’ll probably still see the folks in my program (read: I’d better still be seeing y’all — *cue Breakfast Club music*).
The thing is, even thought I know I’ll probably wind up back in a classroom, it won’t be happening next semester. For the first time in, well, a really long time, I won’t be going to school after the holidays. As someone who’s long identified as a student, this is really, really strange. I’m not a student anymore. I have to change all my bios and blurbs. In some ways, even though I have a fairly solid identity outside of what I do, I have to rethink and re-imagine some parts of my self and my identity.
It seems appropriate to me that this time of change, restlessness, and upheaval is happening in the midst of Advent. I’m already-but-not-yet graduated, I’m looking for a job (and there’s no room at the job-inns), I’m taking steps forward when much of the way ahead is shaded in darkness.
Well, the days are growing darker, too. I eat breakfast in the dark, I eat dinner in the dark. I play Advent tunes in minor keys—think The Civil Wars’ “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” Over the Rhine’s The Darkest Night of the Year (or, you know the newer, also-awesome one), or the playlist built by Occupy Advent (and if you haven’t checked out Occupy Advent and you’re on Twitter or Facebook, do it). I drive over an hour to an unfamiliar church where I sit near the front and watch a shining-faced child light another candle in the Advent wreath; one more light against the darkness.
How often in our spiritual journeys aren’t we met with spaces that require us to rethink and re-imagine who we are—or for that matter, who God is, or the church, or the world? These reconstructions often feel uncomfortable or unpleasant. Last Sunday’s homily used as an illustration the roads of our spiritual journey—roads that can break down, roads that need to be repaired and reconstructed, or even new roads that need to be built. Roadwork is something few of us find attractive, even though it makes the roads we travel better and more passable.
Advent can be a time for construction and reconstruction, and it can provide a season and model for the times in our lives when we must rebuild and re-imagine, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant the task may seem. The anticipation of Advent can mirror the uncertainty and expectancy that come with change and movement.
How are you experiencing this Advent? Is it smooth sailing, or are you traveling rough roads and lighting candles against the darkness? (Or a little of both, which I find is so often the case…) When in your life have you had to build or rebuild roads, and how did you travel that season?