The Library’s Tale

Once upon a time, there was a library. The library had three floors, each with its own distinct personality, although the decor was very similar in all. There were wooden tables, wooden chairs, some beanbags and many shelves of books upon books.

The library liked its function and enjoyed being useful to people. It knew that it was even a comfort to many, and that felt good. But there were two periods of time, three weeks each, that came every year, and which the library dreaded.

These were the weeks when its doors remained open twenty-four hours a day. Most of the time, it got at least seven hours of peace and quiet every night, and while its doors were shut it could breathe in peace and maybe even nap, allowing the books to whisper among themselves and the wooden tables and chairs to stretch their legs and take strolls up and down the aisles before becoming stationary again in the morning.

None of that could happen during those three week periods, though. Instead, the tables and chairs cramped up from the need to stay in the same place for days; the books got bored and sometimes allowed the humans to hear them whispering (which was dangerous); and the library itself, poor thing, began to smell a little bit, to become shabby around the edges, and to feel pale and sickly. Worst of all, though, it had to hear the way the people inside it criticized it, talked about how much they were sick of it and hated it. The library always felt deeply hurt and wounded by this, even though it knew, rationally, that the people didn’t actually mean it; they were only taking their frustration out on the library because they didn’t know it was sentient.

So the library took it, year after year, but it always dreamed of one day allowing itself to expel – with a violent shove out the door – all those spiteful people who decided to curse it for their own need for all-nighters.

A Taste of Conference Work

Although I’m taking time off from school – or maybe because of it – I still think a lot about my academic work. Over the last few months, I did more research and reading about obscure and interesting subjects than I dreamed was possible for such a short span of time. I found it immensely satisfying, challenging, and frankly fascinating to read things that I would never have picked up on my own without the structure of research and coursework to guide me.

Now, at Sarah Lawrence, the most important and unique part of the system is conference work. This is basically independent study and research that is done for each course, with the professor supervising the process and helping out when and if needed. I thought I’d give a small taste of what this is like. Below is the handout I gave to our class, as instructed by the professor, towards the end of my writing process of what turned out to be almost twenty pages of essay, end-notes and bibliography:

Elizabeth Barton, The Holy Maid of Kent, and Anne Askew, Protestant Martyr

Political and Religious Importance in Early Reformation England

  • Elizabeth Barton – In 1525, Barton began to have visions and make prophecies. She soon joined a nunnery after an impressive public healing in a chapel in Kent, and became renowned in England for her prophecies. She prophesied directly against King Henry VIII, predicting his downfall should he marry Anne Boleyn. Executed on April 20, 1534, for treason.
      • What was her political role and what goals did she set out to meet? What political role did she play in her arrest and death? Was she autonomous in her actions or merely being influenced and used by her mentors?
    • Quote: A warning from Thomas More: “Good Madam… I shall beseech you to take my good mind in good worth… many folk desire to speak with you… But some hap to be curious and inquisitive of things that little pertain unto their parts; and some might peradventure hap to talk of such things as might peradventure after turn to much harm…”
  • Anne Askew – In 1545, after being kicked out of her home by her Catholic husband, Askew traveled to London where she was soon apprehended and examined for her Protestant beliefs. She recorded her examinations – the first in 1545 and the second in 1546 – and her manuscripts were published after her execution on July 16, 1546, by John Bale, a Protestant activist.
      • Were her words her own, or were they edited? What was her political and religious significance, before and after her execution? Was she used by others or working as her own free agent?
    • Quote: John Bale praises Askew: “Soch a won was she… whose harte the lorde opened by the godlye preachynge of Paule… “

A Painful Confession

Well, the time has come to write this post. I’ve put it off for a few days, but I’d better not put it off anymore. Here goes.

As some of you know, I’m nineteen years old and I started Sarah Lawrence College in August, 2009. I just came back a couple weeks from my first semester there. I was supposed to have flown back to New York to begin my next semester at the end of January. BUT, and this is where the confession comes in… I’m not. I’m taking a medical leave of absence during the spring semester.

The reason is that I’ve been struggling with an eating disorder for a year and a half now. I began to diet and exercise in the summer of 2008, and became obsessed and consumed by the process of restricting meals, exercising and losing weight. I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t think I could legitimately say that I had any sort of eating disorder, and I still always felt that I looked bad. My boyfriend of two and a half years now urged me to begin therapy, and so I confided in my mother and began seeing a psychologist. Next, I began to see a dietitian. All this was happening while I was in the process of applying to colleges, getting in, flying out to see them and making my choice of where to attend. By August of 2009, I’d gained enough perspective and weight so that my therapist and my mother both felt secure enough to send me to college.

Even though I set up a similar support network in the USA, I still relapsed badly and lost a lot of weight, reaching the lowest weight I’d ever gotten to and endangering my health. Because of this, I’ve been strongly advised to take a leave of absence and focus on getting better, physically, as well as emotionally.

People have very fixed and prejudiced views about young women who have eating disorders – we’re all privileged and bored, shallow and reaching for fashion. This is really not what it’s about. Sure, yes, it starts from the superficial goal of losing a few pounds, but it goes to somewhere completely different emotionally, until there’s an irrational monster in our minds telling us that we must lose weight, while our logic and intellect tell us that this is wrong. Thus, an endless and extremely painful battle of wills seems to dominate our minds at all times.

Believe me, I know that looks aren’t everything in life. In fact, I look at other women around me and I see the beauty in them no matter what their size and shape. I truly don’t look at weight and judge people by it – but I judge myself by it, even though I know I shouldn’t. I know that I’m too thin. I know that I’m in danger. But still the voice in my head criticizes every mouthful of food I consume.

To sum up, what this means is that I’ll be flying New York next week on Monday to move my things out of my dorm room and put them in storage. I’ll be coming back the Saturday of that week, and then will be living in Israel with my mom for the next eight months. The goal, of course, is to return to Sarah Lawrence come August, 2010. My hope is that I’ll manage to achieve this. Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing, I’ll keep posting, and hopefully I’ll be able to use these months for something worthwhile, like maybe actually finishing one of my writing-projects.

Handing In My First Essay

The assignment was simple, but we were all much too nervous to appreciate that fact. The classroom was a buzz of talk throughout the hour and a half lesson as we discussed one theory after another, dissecting one paragraph after the next. The discussion was real and intense, ideas tossed back and forth, shouts of “I agree” and “No, I don’t think so” flying around the room as tongues loosened as we all bathed in the liquor that is shared knowledge and differed opinions.

It was an hour and a half that was free of the normal constraints of time and space. The very walls seemed to change dimensions as the air heated or cooled with the passion of the students, and the time zipped past in a fashion most unlike the normal “classroom time.” Shared craving of healthy discussion and conversation made us all comrades, part of an entity – until our opinions differed and we changed sides in an instant, becoming enemies in a war where the sides respect each other but are each completely adamant about triumphing.

We were working with our essays in front of us, and when my turn came to discuss my passages, I felt like the very air I was breathing was heady – I don’t do that normally, I don’t charge into an opinionated speech based on examples and analysis of a situation – but I did it then, my mind being freed from bonds of shyness or intimidation.

At the end of the lesson after I handed my paper to the professor, I lingered, as I do, to write down the assignments for next lesson in my weekly-planner and to pack up my bag just right. As I got up to leave, I found myself the last one in the room besides my professor, who casually turned to me as he packed up his own bag and said to me “That was very good.” I didn’t understand, so I said “What?” and he replied “That was a very good presentation.”

I stammered some sort of thanks and rushed out of the room. My first week of classes officially ended, and I did something right. Good start.

On Th’Eve of Classes

I went to college one rainy day,

And now it seems I’m here to stay,

Until a hopefully snowing December morn’,

When from my collegiate life I’ll be torn.

The days are moving slowly,

Orientation for us new and lowly,

Friends are hard to come by,

With head tucked under and shy.

My rhyme suffers with fear,

For tomorrow is a day I hold dear,

Classes begin and I’m ready,

The smell of knowledge is heady.

I cannot say I’m good enough,

And this makes it rough

To have confidence in success,

So instead I’m stressed.

Seeing the talent in this school,

Makes me feel like a right damn fool.

I hope I’m not the only one here

Who’s holding back her tears.

I’m scared.

I’m ready.

I’m excited.

I’m scared.

I’m not good enough.

I’m good enough.

I’m unsure.

I’m scared.

People Are People Everywhere

There isn’t a truer sentence. Well, there are many sentences that are just as true or truer, I suppose, but I simply can’t think of any right now. This sentence, however, is one that is very much a motto that I must remember these days. I wander around the campus here and I meet people. I had some sort of fantasy that people in college were somehow different than people in the “real world.”

They’re not. I was sure that college was a place where people were growing up, and thus less prone to pettiness and smallness. I thought everyone would accept everyone, that there would be no cliques, that people wouldn’t judge on first appearances alone. Of course, that was the naive side of my brain that was believing all that. My cynical side, which is rather bigger, knew that college would be just as big a gathering place for those who judge other, who see themselves as being high above others, who disdain other opinions as the rest of the world. My cynical side was proved correct.

Having said that, I don’t wish you to believe that I’m suffering. The transition is hard, even though I’m still in the orientation and registration processes, but by keeping myself busy and on top of things, I manage to minimize the time in which I can feel homesick and sorry for myself.

I highly look forward to this weekend, a time which will hopefully be a little calmer. I hope that I’ll be able to resume my normal almost-every-day posting schedule then and also catch up on all the blogs I regularly read on here. I miss you all, believe me.

I apologize, as I always do, for the “diary”ishness of this entry – my only excuse is that I don’t have time to write something that requires much thought, and so instead I’m simply writing the thoughts that already occupy most of my head-space.

Busy Busy Busy Bee

The last week has been crazy. I feel completely lost amongst the errands, orders, confirmations and packing that has to be done.

The next few days are going to be even worse. Tomorrow and Monday are going to be full-on packing days – going to college entails lots and lots [and lots] of packing. Tuesday early morning we fly to New York, arriving the same day in the afternoon. I’ve ordered my new mini laptop, I’ve ordered my new computer for the dorms, and more shopping will be done in New York. Saturday, August 29th is move-in day.

The next week or two are going to be crazy – chalk-full of outings, shopping, and once orientation week starts, lectures and registration processes. I’ll try to write as much as I can, but I can’t promise prompt or daily entries. This is too bad, because my stats are pretty pathetic as is, and I’ve been here a year. Still, hopefully once I get settles into a routine at Sarah Lawrence, I’ll be able to write properly, maybe even using my school-work and essays as entries or as ideas for what to write about.

For those who are interested, I already have my first course at SLC – this course is under the title of “First Year Studies” and the professor teaching me will be my Don, which is a kind of adviser. This class is for both semesters, and the one I got is this: Text and Theater. It’s a literature course that studies the texts of plays. The professor seems amazing so far [I received a very sweet email from him that he wrote everyone who will be in this class] and I’m excited.

I hope to be here as often as possible. I’ve been here almost a year, and I love my little blog.