I returned to my alma mater, Franciscan University, for Homecoming Weekend a few days ago. Amid a flurry of campus-wide activities, I saw many people - those nearest and dearest to my heart, of course, but also quite a lot of others who will probably never know how much joy their mere presence brings to me. Nearly every one of these people asked me, the newly-graduated, how life was and what I've been doing - a very sensible question to ask someone you haven't seen in months.
As with any social gathering with people you're not in regular contact with, I formulated the answer to that question repeatedly. The more I answered "So what have you been up to?" the more I realized what I really have been up to, and not only how different that is from college life, but also how that is different from college life. (Thus this post.)
College life is primarily social. No matter what you do, you can hardly help but come into regular contact with many, many people - and at a small school like my alma mater, extroverts like myself tend to make a large circle of acquaintances. Now that I'm out of school, I do still see people, but it's very different. My socializing is now on my own terms - which is great for when I want to take care of myself (I've been to the gym more these past two months than the previous twenty years), and to keep in meaningful touch with those long-distance friends who are most important, but less so when I'm feeling sad or insecure (whether those feelings have hormonal causes or not). Days after returning home from Steubenville, I felt that I shouldn't reach out to friends who were still in school, friends who had put aside everything else they were doing on Saturday to hang out with me, because they were busy and I shouldn't bother them. Certainly this train of reasoning is faulty at best, but my point is that it's very hard while living on campus to seclude yourself in the way that you're naturally secluded at home.
Perhaps this is what DB meant when he told me in response to my inquiry about living off-campus that it was a good way to learn how to be part of the community without living in the community. I think only two of my readers have experienced such a thing, but I'd love to hear your take on it. How much of this reaction is really just a response to the off-campus lifestyle?
The other obvious thing that's different about post-college life is the intellectual side of things. Passing conversations on campus that merely took for granted past intellectual discussions stirred into flame latent passions in my heart that I had nearly forgotten about in my day-to-day life of work, exercise, reading, prayer, phone calls, eating, and sleeping. This just confirms that I need to make an effort to go to those theology lectures from the Dominicans at St. Vincent Ferrer, to those mornings of recollection from Opus Dei, to anything that will keep the intellectual part of my brain engaged! It's great to read critical essays online, but that's hardly the same. My brain longs to continue working, and it's my job to keep it going.
Now that I researched those two links, I've found hordes of other ineresting web-things to keep me busy 'till my self-imposed log-off time two hours before bed. With the luxury of time that no social engagements and no homework affords me, I'm off to check them out!
I wonder whether this thirst for the intellectual is the reason why I've felt such thorough enjoyment for the few works of theater I've been able to see these past few months. I'll bet they're absolutely related!