Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I...

There's a video game that I play from time to time called "Westward" where the object is to settle the unexplored and untamed wilderness of the western frontier. Each time a character is moved into an unexplored area the landscape literally paints itself as the character walks forward. What had previously been a fuzzy and opaque area of the screen, springs forward with a myriad of trees, lakes, and caves waiting to be mined. Checking the game's overview map we would see that a whole new corner of the world has appeared where only blank space had been before.

I had my own "Westward" experience in real life yesterday.
I took a trip down to NY to check out the New York seminary that I'm thinking of applying to for the Fall of 2008. I still have not heard from the Boston seminary regarding a possible scholarship for this Fall, so it's looking more and more likely that I will have to wait a year to begin my studies.

I am no stranger to NYC having gone to school there many years ago and having friends there whom I visited often when I lived on Long Island. But after visiting the NY seminary I feel as if a whole new corner of the world has opened up for me. In many ways the NYC seminary is the polar opposite of the Boston seminary but I strangely find myself attracted to both.

One is in the city; one is outside of the city. One is surrounded by the small, white clapboard churches of New England; one is set down in the middle of the eclectic, urban churches of NYC. One is tied to my denomination and offers an atmosphere of familiarity; one attracts students from all denominations and offers the challenges/advantages of living with diversity.

The appearance of this new world is both exciting and frustrating.
I've been facing in one direction for so long it's unsettling to suddenly be faced with such an opposite yet equal choice.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I…..have no friggen' idea which way to go!

What are the PROS for each path?

In this corner we have the Boston Seminary - with a peaceful hill top campus, strong UCC ties, small classes, new chapel, affordable tuition and on-campus housing, and a short T-ride from downtown Boston.

In the opposite corner we have the New York Seminary - housed in a intimidatingly beautiful and historical building, top-notch professors and a challenging curriculum, diverse student body, daily chapel services along with morning and evening prayer services, strong emphasis on social justice/action, and the city of NY right at its doorstep.

What are the CONS?

Boston - unfamiliar city, I'm less likely to leave the peaceful confines of campus to mix with the community, fewer course offerings, smaller faculty, student body is more homogeneous, newly built chapel lacks warmth/history, only 3 chapel services per week, small library and bookstore (have access to Harvard's facilities but entails travel).

New York - crowded city, commute home by train/subway/bus takes just as long as commuting by car to Boston, larger classes mean less one-on-one attention from professors, more rigorous academic demands, more expensive tuition and housing than Boston (though housing is cheap by NY standards).

In the end my decision may come down to money.
The NY seminary has more scholarship offerings but the cost of tuition/housing is nearly twice as expensive as the Boston seminary, so even a 50% tuition scholarship for NY would leave me in the same financial hole as going to Boston with no scholarship.

If money was not a factor, which would I choose?
My heart has been set on the Boston seminary for so long that it is hard to let it go.
But looking back at the words I chose to describe each school in the above "PRO" section, I'm beginning to realize that my choice may be more obvious than I'm willing to admit:

Boston: peaceful, small, affordable.
New York: intimidating, diverse, challenging.

I have to ask myself: Am I going to seminary to feel safe? To be comfortable? To not be stretched beyond my means?
Or am I going to grow? - To force myself out of my comfort zone, to shake-up my expectations and my set-in-stone beliefs, and to experience and explore the unfamiliar and the unsettling.

Both seminaries have new experiences to offer; both will challenge me intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually; both are great schools and both produce well-educated and effective ministers. Both offer paths that have been well-worn from the many who have come before, but which is the right path for me?
Perhaps it's the one I've avoided taking up until now because it would be too hard, too scary, too expensive, too intimidating.
This is my road less traveled by.

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost


Zanne said...

Tough decision. I was asked by my bishop to consider 4 different seminaries. I narrowed it down to 2 and then got stuck. After many conversations and heart searching I decided that if given a choice I would go with the more intimidating of the 2 because I wanted to be intentional about moving away from my comfort zone. As it turned out, that door closed and upon reflection I realized that it worked out exactly the way I'd secretly hoped it would.
All that being said, breathe, listen to your heart, make the best decision you're capable of, and trust that God will honour your intention. All shall be well. Blessings on your journey.

Magdalene6127 said...

You had asked if we could email... I will be happy to do that. Right now I'm at a conference, and will be tied up until Monday. After that... I would love to talk to you about my (wonderful) experience with the NY seminary.


Cynthia said...

Sometimes we think we should choose one path because it is the road less traveled by but sometimes it can just lead us further away from our heart's desire.

What is your heart's desire?