So I've made it through 3/4 of my first week of classes and so far so good. The professors are great and the work, while voluminous, is doable.
I'm taking Systematic Theology, Pastoral Care in Congregations, Creating Healthy Congregations, and Paul as Pastoral Strategist. It's a good mix of theory and practice, and I was happy to discover that most of the papers I have to write are less along the lines of academic/research papers and more reflection/theory. We're not expected to just regurgitate the facts and ideas of theologians who came before us, instead we're asked to integrate our own theology with that of classic and modern thinkers and defend/critique those beliefs.
For the most part I haven't had too much trouble functioning as an introvert among many extroverts; everyone here is so friendly and we're all a bunch of church nerds, so I have no problem plopping my tray down at a lunch table and joining in on a conversation about the misogyny of 1 Timothy, the problem of enacting change in older congregations, and what curriculum we used in Sunday School last year. (I know it may sound incredibly boring to some but it's incredibly exciting to me ;-)
Today though, was an off day.
In my Paul class yesterday there were mainly 2nd and 3rd year students, and everyone else seemed to be able to burst forth with these insightful and brilliantly expressive comments on the text, while I sat in intimidated silence (and was never called on the few times that I did raise my hand, which made me feel even more invisible.)
Coming off of that, this morning I just felt out of sync. I walked into the dining hall for breakfast and all the seats were taken at the one table where everyone had gathered so I ended up sitting by myself at another table.
In my Systematic Theology class I was the only first year student among mainly 3rd years, so everyone else knew each other and moved their seats into clusters while I ended up with empty seats all around me and feeling pretty isolated. I did manage to join a study group though, simply by saying "Can I join your group?" (which is a helpful tip for introverts: when feeling isolated, force your way in ;-)
After class, nearly everyone stayed behind to continue to "catch up" with each other so I walked to the cafeteria alone and ended up sitting with more upper level and D.Min students that I didn't know, and who didn't seem too interested in getting to know me (::sigh::, I miss newbie orientation already!)
One 3rd year student did talk to me; she's in the midst of writing her ordination paper and she gave me helpful advice about the classes I'm taking and the ordination process, but she's like the UCC ministerial candidate poster child - well-dressed, articulate, she easily expressed her concepts of ministerial leadership and Christian faith - I couldn't help but look at her and think "here's a woman who will have no trouble finding a job when she graduates," and at the same time think "I'm not even in the same league as she is so what hope do I have?"
So I finished my lunch, walked back to my room alone and flopped down on the bed. Thinking that the strain of not getting enough sleep, taking new classes, being away from my SO, and my need for an 'introverts recharge' after a very social 2 weeks was the cause of my 'out-of-syncness,' I just laid there for 20 minutes until I literally ended up in a fetal position.
When I looked at the clock and saw that it was 12:55, I forced myself to get up and go over to the chapel to attend the weekly Unitarian Universalist worship service. I needed a pick me up and I knew some of the UU students, so I thought what the hell, better to mope in public than in private!
I'm glad I went.
I commiserated with some the other newbies who are also feeling their newbieness for the first time as we mix with the upper level students, I got to sing some UU hymns that I haven't heard in years and were always my favorites when I was a UU, and we heard a great sermon that used the imagery of ripening fruit as an analogy for the path we're on in seminary. The woman speaking talked about her mother who suffers from dementia, and one day while they were picking plumbs in her garden her mother told her to pick "only the ones that want to come." Her mother no longer had the ability to recall the word "ripe" but she still could express the idea of what the word meant. "Like fruit on the vine, none of us should be picked before we have ripened," the woman went on to say in her sermon, "and when we are ready, we will come." It was then that I realized that in comparing myself to all these 3rd year students I was looking at the ripened fruit and allowing myself to feel inadequate because I still have a ways to go before I get to that point.
But I will get there.
I made some new friends at the UU service and got an invite to an art class they're having tonight. I headed back to my room feeling much better then I did this morning, and to top it all off, I ran into one of the women in my building who handed me a vase full of gorgeous flowers and asked me if I could keep them in my room while she was away for the weekend visiting her spouse. "I'm afraid that they won't retain their beauty if there's no one there to look at them," she said.
It's been a great day.