moving onwards and upwards

St. Birgitta stitch, part 1: in which I still have sanity
St. Birgitta stitch, parts 2 & 3: in which I’ve totally lost it
Visiting family in Albuquerque and taking the Sandia Tramway for the first time

What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.

C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

This past year or so since I graduated with my BA in Classics has been very strange. Certainly covid contributed to its strangeness, but there were other things that compounded the strangeness.

I had been planning to go straight from my undergraduate to a masters degree in theology. All the classes would be online, and the community experience would of course be extraordinarily lacking. However, it was a conversation I had with someone about the future viability of my research interests that made me come screeching to a halt in this plan, causing me to withdraw my application a week before classes were to start.

Then I got a job working at a pharmacy, which was really nice, because I had some money for the first time since I graduated high school. I was working through treatment (I think a more accurate term might be management) for my mental health and starting to feel stable, more confident in myself, and a lot less anxious than I had in a very long time. But throughout this time, I kept questioning the decision I had made to not go to graduate school.

Of course I didn’t regret choosing to avoid online classes, but I missed the environment where I had felt so comfortable and where I had found my closest friends. At the same time, I didn’t want to go back just because I missed chapel and my friends. I didn’t have a viable research interest (the history and development of the typikon, while interesting to me, is not exactly the stuff of tenure).

Then the papers came.

The paper ideas started coming in droves. I would pick up the Iliad and suddenly feel that I needed to write a paper about vocation versus identity through action or inaction in the Iliad using Achilles as a case study (and maybe throwing in Euripides because let’s face it the guy was a genius). This paper started as a very specific idea frantically scribbled down before bed and turned into a complex, multilayered set of thoughts that I’m still figuring out. I also wanted to write a paper about the whole process of Patroklos’ death, which is quite possibly my favorite scene in the Iliad (followed or preceded by Hector and Andromache, I’m not sure).

Finally I got to the point where I found the thesis idea that I want to write about an pursue for my graduate work. I’m not going to name it specifically here, because unfortunately academic paranoia is usually justified, but it is very generally about Orthodoxy and mental health. I am so excited to write it, and to be honest, even if it doesn’t go anywhere it will be worth doing.

I suppose this is a really long-winded way of saying God willing I will be actually starting grad school in the fall. I’m still not quite sure exactly how I’ll manage all the details, but as my spiritual father once pointed out to me, God has not let me down yet. I am thankful for my “gap year,” and I am thankful that all my saints have found me a way to go. (I have a posse – St. Catherine of course, St. Xenia of Petersburg, St. Phanourios, St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia, St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, and most recently St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain.) Without them I’d very much still be lost.

-Odds & Ends-
Video explaining the St. Birgitta stitch pictured above (also Morgan Donner is wonderful)
Video Recording of the Akathist to St. Porphyrios (in Greek)
Onesimus, the blog of Dr. Bill Black, an OCMC missionary serving in Nairobi who I had the great honor of meeting when he spoke at a retreat hosted by the missions committee at my college (please pray for him and his work, and if you are interested and/or able to, please go here to support him financially)
I just finished this book about St. Paisios (I know I’m a little late to the bandwagon on it, but it really did come into my life at the right time). A couple of my dearest friends have such a good relationship with him, and I am so glad that I started having my own relationship with him as well.
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger has completely disillusioned me of the notion I’ve had since high school that Salinger is terrible. He is not.

the end of an era

As I am writing this, I am approximately two weeks away from being done with all of my classes of the second semester of my senior year. In other words, I’m almost done.

This, as you can imagine, brings up all kinds of feelings, especially because I have to finish my degree in quarantine (or whatever we are calling this situation right now). I am nostalgic for my campus, stressed about finishing all my work, at a point where I am apathetic towards my work, and basically terrified about what comes next.

The great big future is before me after this, and there are no right or wrong answers about what to do. I have done what is socially acceptable, and now (young) adulthood is here on the very visible horizon.

Of course, I have been working towards going to grad school, but at this point it is not in my immediate future, and I have a year to fill. A year of reflection and solitude, a refresher year after this degree I just finished. (If you can’t tell, I’m a big believer in gap years.)

I’m excited to read a lot. I’m also excited I found a platform which supports local bookstores (bookshop.org). I’m also excited to announce that I registered for an affiliate link on bookshop.org. You can find my shop here if you feel like supporting it in any way. I made some shelves with books I like and a few books I want, but go ahead and explore the whole website. Support those indie bookstores! (…and maybe support me too, if you want…)

I suppose I should mention that I was (and still am) really opposed to registering for an affiliate program with Amazon, because of the monopoly they hold on Internet shopping. Basically, the fact that this exists makes me happy, and I am glad to support them (and I probably would link to them now anyway, so there’s that).

I might do a book review and updated TBR comparing what I have read with what I want to read. That will definitely happen after May. I also have some project updates and some other things in the works that should be coming along soon after I get some abundant quantities of free time.

Until then, God bless, and I will see you tomorrow on Pascha!

-Catherine

hush

There comes a point sometime towards the end of July that I like to call “deep summer”. 

Deep summer overlaps a bit with the dog days of summer, which apparently last from mid-July to mid-August (as I just learned from Google). However, deep summer is less of a date-oriented time and more of a feeling.

Deep summer happens when everyone realizes that in a month or so, school and “normal” life will start again, and in response, go into a sort of slower mode of existence in order to preserve as much as possible the luxurious feeling of not having a million things to do. Deep summer means the last chance to go on vacation and the last chance for a family cookout.

Deep summer means autumn is almost here.

With the arrival of autumn comes the arrival of classes and books and groups of people asking everyone in the cafeteria to sign up for intramural flag football (no). The arrival of autumn means I need to make sure I have notebooks and erasers for my mechanical pencil, and also a decent handle on the amount of work I’m going to have to do.

What on earth possessed me to become involved in student government, the leadership of a multi-seminary movement to promote brotherhood and Orthodox unity, the foundation of a creative writing group, and more or less sole responsibility for the proper order of chapel services, in addition to two part-time jobs and 15 credits of classwork, 6 of which are at a different college, the beginning of my undergraduate thesis project, and doctoral applications, in addition to getting a healthy amount of sleep, exercising a little every day, eating properly, having friends, doing hobbies which calm me down and keep me going creatively and introvertedly, and maintaining a decent spiritual life? What possessed me?

Deep summer is here. Hush.

I haven’t yet mapped out my complete class schedule yet because I do not know what it is, which frustrates me rather a lot. I don’t know if I’m even going to get into the classes at the other college, and yet I need them to graduate with my beloved classics major. I’m also not sure yet what graduate programs I’m going to be applying to yet. Simply looking at the list of all I will have going on is overwhelming to me.

Deep summer is here. Hush.

Now my question is, how do I keep this beautiful slow creative happy feeling with me when I start doing all of that stuff? How do I maintain my sanity after the craziness starts?

I think the best answer I can come up with is something my advisor frequently says to me when I am stressed or exhausted: Take care of Catherine for me. 

I need to take care of Catherine, and Catherine likes quiet and being creative and cooking and reading every good classics fanfiction book under the sun. Catherine enjoys the profound freedom in reviving her inner toddler and saying no and sticking to it when asked to do something she is not interested in doing. 

Catherine loves the hush of deep summer.

summer

It’s been a while since I have posted anything on here. There are probably myriad reasons for that, but mostly I think because it is summer.

To me, there is a conception out there that summer is supposed to be relaxing and fun, maybe an opportunity to do some things one would not normally do, and a time to do projects that one does not have time for in the more rushed times of fall and winter and the impending school year.

I find that this is categorically false. Summers are stressful and hard, particularly emotionally, and I live the same meaningless day on repeat until classes start and I again have something to do. Projects go undone and unfinished because I do not have any kind of deadline or reason to finish them, especially since more often than not projects run into the school year when I do not have so much time to finish them.

Perhaps I lack focus or self-discipline; this is most likely the case. However, given my normal schedule during the school year, somehow I doubt this. I have plenty of focus when I want to, and self-discipline, although hard, can be come by when needed.

The worst is probably when I start to question the meaning of everything I am doing. What is the point of researching a random of word usage in Sappho to check on the specific definition of colors when that question literally has no direct meaning or importance to my life?

More deeply and frustratingly, struggles with faith run rampant for me in the summer. What point does church have when every time I try to open myself up to God it seems that He asks of me something that I cannot do? If I cannot change for Him, then why bother going or even praying?

There’s a part of me that feels that one can entirely circumvent the path of spiritual struggle by just not doing it, and this is to some degree true. One does not have to struggle if the demons do not have to fight.

So here I sit on yet another Sunday morning having slept through Liturgy. I think I’m at three weeks running of not having gone specifically to Sunday Liturgy, but more broadly to any Liturgy. I keep sleeping through them. Perhaps I need to go to a real parish (with real people with real lives) and not to the school chapel, but I have no method of transportation. Perhaps I need to pray more on my own, or go to confession, or something.

I’m really not sure what to do, since life without God is loveless and awful, but right now life with God hurts too much for me.

Perhaps I shall write another post about why the summer has been so difficult. This is quite cathartic, and feels less isolating than writing in a journal. Also, as hard as it is, I think that it also is in keeping with the name and theme of “even Thine altars,” because it is easy to think that Christians do not struggle with their faith. The one-and-done confession-and-salvation Protestant mentality is quite pervasive especially in the U.S., but the real question is not “are you saved yet” but rather “are you living your salvation”.

Am I living my salvation?