The first week of classes is a crazy, crazy time.
I’ve had a last of first weeks of classes—between the various programs I’ve cobbled together, I’m starting my sixteenth semester of higher education. A few times the first week has also been my first week at an institution: verifiably hectic. I’ve had ten and half different homes along this journey, so moving and unpacking and newness often played a role as well—and then there was that time I got married a week before seminary orientation started halfway across the country.
But really every new semester is, well, new. Even though I’ve lived in New York for a year and been married for a year and have a year’s worth of experience in seminary, this semester is new. I have new classes and several new professors. I have a new schedule, and it’s pretty full because even though I said last semester that I was going to cut all my extracurriculars to make time for some of my own projects, I didn’t actually manage to quit anything—in fact I added more. In one week I begin field work, my first on-the-ground academic-credit-granting ministry experience as a seminarian. And just in case our household wasn’t quite hectic enough, my husband begins a new job on Tuesday.
You’d think I would be used to this.
You’d think that after almost a decade I would snap into new schedules like it’s my job (which several times it literally was). I don’t, though. I write down assignments and due dates in my calendar and wonder how I’m going to do it all. I come back to my apartment and flop on the couch and turn on Netflix because I feel too tired to think. I cringe when my alarm goes off and fantasize about staying in bed (even though I’m actually pretty terrible at sleeping in). I drink even more than my usual amount of coffee and still yawn my way though Church History.
Because I know how this goes, I know that I’ll develop a rhythm. I know that after a couple of weeks I won’t exactly be brimming with energy*, but I won’t be absolutely wiped out all the time, either.
Every new endeavor involves an adjustment period, a time when the very newness of everything is overwhelming—and every experience of being overwhelmed is, in its own way, new. I can’t say I love this particular feeling, but in an odd way I’m grateful for it, for its role in the changing seasons of life (academic and otherwise).
If I always felt this overwhelmed, I wouldn’t be able to function. If I never felt this way, though, I wouldn’t know how strong I am. I wouldn’t know how I am able to function (and even excel) under pressure, or how I can accomplish so much more than I thought I could. It’s a good feeling—especially when it’s past and I’m looking back.
And in the meantime: naps. And coffee. Definitely coffee.
*Apparently I will never be brimming with energy since, as I learned in my pre-seminary psych evaluation, I am “surprisingly low-energy for someone [my] age going into ordained ministry.” Gee thanks, Mr. Psychiatrist. I’m just an old soul—an old, low-energy soul.
Alissa Goudswaard Anderson (’10) lives with her husband Josh in New York City, where she is earning her Master of Divinity at General Theological Seminary. Alissa enjoys private kitchen dance parties, big Midwestern thunderstorms, and perusing other peoples’ bookshelves. For more, find her online at www.episcotheque.wordpress.com or tweet her @episcotheque.