got me a college girl

in celebration of formal education in the life of the Christian girl

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Just who are these women? (Elizabeth)

My name is Elizabeth and I'm 28 years old. I'm a Southern gal, "in exile" as I like to say, living in Michigan. Like Kristen, I'm originally from North Carolina, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from North Carolina State University in 1999. I moved to Michigan that same year to pursue a graduate degree in Developmental Psychology at the University of Michigan. I spent four years there. However, with my husband and family's support, I chose to leave the program "ABD" (all but dissertation) when I became pregnant with my now 20-month old daughter, Charlotte. My husband currently works for the university as a computer programmer. We are very fortunate to be part of a wonderful church family here in Michigan, which makes our separation from our families bearable.

It was actually a very difficult decision for me to leave graduate school because I truly value education, and it was a huge step to "give up" on a PhD, though I know I'm not the first to do so. The last couple of years of grad school I had been unsure about whether to continue or not, because the lifestyle of the female professors I met in my field was not appealing to me- the work hours too many and the stress too great. While I enjoyed my classes, reading, teaching, and much of my research experience, I found that I did not enjoy "the nuts & bolts" of preparing papers for publication and endless grant writing that dominated my experience. However, I'm still thankful for what I learned both inside and outside the classroom and research lab in graduate school. I know that whether or not I eventually pursue another graduate degree in a different field in a future season of my life, I'll continue to benefit from my grad school experiences. Above all, God really used that challenging time in my life to draw me close to Him.

I enjoy reading the perspectives on College Girl in part because I had become somewhat negative about my graduate school experiences. It's helped me to gain a better perspective on it- I had found myself thinking positive thoughts about advanced education generally, but negative thoughts about my own experiences. I suppose I was "burned out" by grad school. It may seem strange to say this on a pro-schooling blog, but I believe not ALL schooling experiences are equally beneficial, especially if there is a poor match between the student and program. I went into grad school "on my own steam", without really seeking counsel from others or even praying about it. I was extremely troubled by this at one point about three years into my program, and spoke to a wise lady who works with graduate students about it. She reminded me that God can redeem all things, and encouraged me not to wallow in guilt from making decisions without seeking His will, but to turn the situation over to His control. I am so thankful that I followed her wise counsel.

Unlike many of these lovely ladies, I did not really grow up in a Christian home. I was christened in the Methodist church, but did not attend as a child, and my mother, at least, was agnostic. She passed away when I was six years old, and my father remarried three years later. My stepmother did start taking us to church, and I came to know Christ when I was 10 years old, and was baptized at that time. I am continually amazed at the way God has worked through difficult circumstances in my life! I feel extremely blessed in my life. While I whole-heartedly support the pursuit of advanced education, and truly enjoyed my undergraduate college experience especially, I love where I am today. I spend most of my time caring for or playing with Charlotte, of course, along with writing, reading, decorating my home, digital scrapbooking, reading and posting on my parenting and scrapbooking message boards, gardening (way too many tomatoes this year!), and enjoying my husband's good company.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Just Who Are These Women? (Kristen)

My name is Kristen. I am one of the younger members of this blog as I'll be 24 in just over a month. I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2003. I married Michael in August of 2003, moved to Austin, TX and taught third grade for one year. I retired to stay at home with our sweet daughter Kate who was born last July. Our lives were radically altered when we became parents, in the best of ways, and now we're living in Virginia and expecting Kate's first sibling at Christmas time.

I was raised in a Christian home and have been faithfully trying to live for Christ as long as I can remember. I still chose to attend a large, secular university which was the perfect fit for me. I loved my college years. I had time and space to really think in college. I figured out a lot of important things theologically and philosophically, was able to serve the church body in a variety of ways and learned a lot from both my classes and my experiences and learned a great deal about myself. I am, and will forever be, a faithful Tar Heel fan, but going to Carolina was a lot more than that to me.

Tonight I am off to a local reception for admitted students matriculating to Carolina this fall. I can't wait to meet them, to congratulate them, to give them advice and to go home and pray for them by name, that God will use their time at Carolina to draw them to himself in the ways that he used that experience for me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Just Who Are These Women? (Joy)

Fifth post in the series (and too long as usual)....

My name is Joy, and (at 29) I'm the eldest of the four McCarnan "supersiblings." I was born on the campus of what was to become my alma mater, and earned a B.A. English/Creative Writing and an M.A. Theology from there. I was not "born again" until shortly before my freshman year of college, and so, as God would have it, a great deal of my post-conversion discipleship took place on that campus and in churches affiliated with that university. Like my dad, who also got an M.A. Theology from there, I opted not to use my degree for a pastoral position (we all thank heaven for that). I wanted it for a better basis for discernment in my writing. Even if I never write a book, I'm grateful for the educational path along which the Lord has brought me. When I sought the counsel of men and women for whom I have great respect, whose own lives and accomplishments I admired immensely, not one of them told me I would regret pursuing higher education. Not one of them told me that I would regret pursuing a seminary degree as a female. Did they have admonitions for me? Did they have advice? Yes, and yes. But the unanimous verdict was that a degree in theology could be of benefit to me in every aspect of my future, no matter what God might have on His agenda for me. They said it couldn't hurt me -- couldn't hurt my "helpmeeting," couldn't hurt my mothering, couldn't hurt my writing, couldn't hurt my teaching, couldn't hurt my housekeeping, couldn't hurt my spiritual life. They said it seemed to them it could only help.

what joy looks likeI live in the river district in Rockford, Illinois (about an hour due west of Chicago). If it would pay the bills, I would write haiku and shoot photos all day, but alas, I had to get a real job. I coordinate the production and promotion of distance education courses for a paleoconservative, classics-focused, magazine-publishing "think tank." I freelance for BigBlueHat, a South Carolina based web firm. I have a number of dream jobs, some of them more or less likely to be realized. Since the Discovery took off without me yesterday, I've had another reminder that "Astronaut" isn't one of the likelier dreams to be fulfilled. I'd love to be a Wife, a Mother, perhaps a Missionary, a Teacher, a Writer. I'd love to teach creative writing on a university level. I'd love to teach English as a foreign language overseas somewhere. I'd love to write with a Christian worldview, yet competitively artistically and credibly, for a mainstream audience. For now, I'm doing a lot of stuff that I hope will continue to employ and multiply the affinities and abilities God's given to me -- I help out in various ways at my church, teach ESL, teach Greek, edit for Kids4Truth, take pictures, study languages, read fabulous books, sit around plotting ways to visit cool people like my new nephew, and -- last but not least -- I write the occasional poem or essay or article.

I don't have a skyrocket IQ. My GPA in college was nothing to write home about (unless the deans were writing warnings home about it). But one of the best things any woman can learn is the vast disparity between what she has learned and what there is left out there to be learned -- in other words, how much she doesn't know. There are a lot of things I should be doing, or that I could be doing, but I'm not unhappy or overly stressed. If I get stir-crazy or tense, there are always rollerblades in the trunk of the car. There are always dishes to wash and letters to write and people to see and places to go. My mama (who has a degree in education, by the way, and who is still pursuing a Masters in Educational Leadership and Supervision) always said, "Only boring people get bored." A lifelong learner is never bored, and I'm content with how my experience with higher education has helped me become just that -- a better lifelong learner.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Just who are these women? (Allison)

This is the fourth post in the introductory series.

"a quarter of a century and I still have my hope" --eric peters

My name's Allison Redd and I'm 25 years old. My parents still live in the house where I was raised, located on the banks of a creek in a tiny southeast Alabama town. An only child, I attended public school with the same group of folks from kindergarten until my senior year. My parents instilled in me a desire for higher education: it was never a question of if, just where. I am forever grateful for their guidance: at their prodding, I attended Birmingham-Southern College on a tuition scholarship, where I developed an interest in roadtrips, Reformed theology, and midnight breakfasts. Upon graduation, I left BSC with a greater passion for service-oriented life, a heart for revitalizing urban communities, a much longer books-to-read list, a better appreciation for liturgy and the church year, and a degree: a B.A. in English with a minor in art.

On one particular college roadtrip to see a particular musician, I met my fantastic husband, Gaines, who also hails from the heart of Dixie but stayed in Atlanta after graduating from Georgia Tech. After a two-year long-distance relationship, Gaines and I celebrated the first day of our marriage on August 10th, 2002.

We live in an international apartment complex in northeast Atlanta; our neighbors hail from places like Mexico, Venezuela, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, China, and Korea. For the past three years, we have been part of a ministry called Apartment Life, which seeks to build community and share Christ in urban multi-family homes. Our time requires a mingling of event planning and ministry; this unique vision stems from the desire to connect the local church with apartment complexes so that both benefit. Though we will soon take a sabbatical from our CARES Team duties, we plan to stay in the same apartment and continue developing the friendships we've made. I know the kids will keep knocking on our door for popsicles, and I'll probably teach another ESL class in the evenings if I have time.

I went to college seeking Christian community--and I found it. I also discovered a yearning to be part of God's transformation of the world. It had not occurred to me before that He sees fit to use us as agents in His redemption of the earth, that all callings are sacred for those in Christ. It took a few extra years for me to discover that my role, for the present, is to be a teacher. On August 7th, I will graduate from Georgia State University with a M.Ed. in English education. A week later, I'll introduce students to the joy of reading excellent literature as I begin teaching 9th-10th grade English at a public charter school near our home. I love working with international students, and hope to garner an additional TESOL endorsement (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) in the next few years.

Higher education is not for everyone, I know. However, I also know that as a wife, daughter, sister-in-law, and (hopefully) mother, my life and the lives of those around me will be enriched because of my years as a professional student. My experiences on the hilltop in Birmingham and among the highrises of Atlanta cultivated in me a wealth of diligence, patience, endurance, and joy that I would not have otherwise. The fact that my parents (and my husband) sacrificed in order to grant me those opportunities makes this blessing that much sweeter. Their support has sustained me through the plethora of papers, projects, and practicums required over the past year and a half, and when I one day see my students walk across a stage to receive their diploma, I will know the effort was not in vain.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Just Who Are These Women? (Rachel)

This is post number three in the series.

My name is Rachel Draper. Age-wise I register right after Liz as I am almost 24. I was blessed to be home schooled during my whole elementary and high school education. After high school graduation I attended the local community college for three years and graduated in 2003 with an Associates in liberal arts. I then transferred to Bradley University where I completed my B.S. in mathematics this past May. I would love to continue my education in math some day, but at this point I’m taking a break from formal education.

I got married to my wonderful husband, TJ, this past June, so I’m still in the adjustment stage. Lately, I have found myself spending my time sewing, reading, doing cross-stitch and cooking and then of course the less pleasant aspects of homemaking – cleaning. However, I haven’t been able to escape from the math books and you can sometimes find me scratching away at problems on my slate chalkboard.

I’ve been enjoying this blog too much to post on it, but I thought I better come out and introduce myself instead of hiding in the shadows. I enjoy it because it reminds me that it is possible to enjoy formal education and value it, while at the same time valuing home, family and children. The two are not mutually exclusive and I love seeing both set forth as examples in women’s lives.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Just Who Are These Women? (Liz)

Post number two in the series.

My name is Liz. I am significantly younger than many (dare I say most?) of these ladies, registering in at almost 23 years old. I started college when I was 16, and subsequently spent six years in undergrad enjoying the way I could let my ecclectic nature wander about from subject to subject. I graduated last summer with a B.A. in Liberal Arts and intend to pursue an M.A. in English within the next five years. Camille has recently got me thinking about adding a Ph.D. in Linguistic Anthropology on to the end of that, but we'll have to see what happens. A self-defined ecclectic, I have dozens of degrees that I would like to have before the end of my schooling. My parents like to say that I'll be a professional student for the rest of my life. I honestly hope they're right.

I did everything in life early, and married my husband three years ago next month. We have a 19 month old son that I am continually blessed to stay home with. I intend to stay home for as many of the early years as I can. I aspire to become/am working on becoming both an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant and a freelance writer.

I tend to spend my time reading, writing, scrapbooking, sewing, and otherwise trying to be useful. I enjoy College Girl because reading the posts and discussions stretches my mind - and I can only hope that it has a similar effect on those reading us.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Just who are these women? (Mollie)

Perhaps in an effort to "extend the hand of friendship," perhaps to lend some credibility to us all, here is the first in the series of college girl introductions. All introductions are open to curious questions.

My name is Mollie Campbell Greene. I hold a B.Mus. in Piano Performance and an M.A. in Dramatic Productions, from Bob Jones University. I am also a licensed Kindermusik educator and currently teach both Kindermusik and piano from our home studio, Greene Bird Studios.

I am married to Aaron,



and we have two fabulous children, Henry, 3, and Jude, 1.



I am currently a play-at-home mama and hope to maintain this position for a very long time. We live in central Illinois near to my parents and three of my still-at-home siblings.

When I'm not in the midst of mothering, and sometimes when I'm right in the thick of it, I enjoy making and listening to music, reading piles of various and sundry, clicking my way through cyberspace, digging in the dirt and helping things grow, sewing and creating of all kinds, theater arts here and there, studying child development, cooking and eating, different flavors of reality tv, taking care of this beautiful house with which we've been blessed, and all matter of family life in general.

I enjoy college girl primarily because I learn something new in nearly every post and secondarily because it confirms my already strong belief that the best thing I did for myself and for my family was spend more than half of my twenties pursuing higher education!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

is homemaking a career? (mollie)

Lately I've encountered the following statement regarding homemaking:

...This is my career. If I were in another career there would be just as many demands on my time and energy . . . it would require organization and routines and schedules .


On the one hand, yes, it does help me to look at my housewifery/mothering job as my "career." It helps the day's demands and routines seem easier to manage, etc., as I'm not thinking that I just sit at home doing nothing constructive all day. Most likely it's a psychological approach to the thing, no?

On the other hand, what of mothers and homemakers who work at home as well? Or work outside the home? If a mother does all that I do and works (whether it be a few hours or forty hours a week) at a monetary paying job, something that she's been educated toward doing, and this is her "career" what is the *other,* then? Is it secondary to her career? Is her job secondary to her "career" as a mother?

Or are homekeeping/mothering/housewifery and the term "career" polar opposites?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Marching (Camille)

I will never forget the first year I marched with my Ph.D. regalia. You have to remember that one of the chief reasons anyone gets her Ph.D. is because geeks so rarely have the best attire in the room. But on graduation day, you really rock with those colorful giant hoods and the groovy tams.

I was the “youngest” Ph.D. and so I marched in next to the oldest -- Dr. Panosian. He was always one of my favorite teachers as an undergrad with his sonorous voice and wise words. Dignity on two feet. He oozed a professorial persona. I was always in awe of him.

And here, while singing that sentimental hymn, I marched in with him. A green Ph.D. with folded wrinkles still in my unbesmirched tri-velveted gown. He joked in the line when we were supposed to be quiet. He made gracious small talk to his former HI 101 nobody. He was really charming. And I was struck that I had the honor of honoring those 2002 graduates alongside him.

His wife had been my office mate. I will never forget those two short semesters sitting alongside her in that crowded office. "Some of those WCTU speeches would drive you to drink!" HA! "Remember, Camille, it's our job to help them find God's will in their lives." I still try to channel the spirit of Mrs. Panosian when I sit in front of my sophomore majors deciding their potential in my department. I was never her student, but I always count her as my friend.

And now as my EN102 teacher and I are "sparring" online, I think back. What other way can I come alongside these pillars of the Faith, these bulwarks in the Life of the Mind, if it hadn't been for my stint in higher education?

I'm honored that I am a peer to those great people while I make my own students my peers.

The First Thing I Learned in College (Elizabeth)

For many students, beginning college signals a move into a less sheltered existence, where you become increasingly aware of the "dark side" of this world. This was not my personal experience. The first thing I learned in college was that life was not as hopeless, terrible and overwhelming as I feared.

My life as a high school student was chaotic, stressful and punctuated by inappropriate experiences courtesy of my adoptive step-mother, “C”. Life with C was like riding a mega roller-coaster built on a mountain- not your usual ups and downs, but HUGE ups and downs where you thought you might DIE when your little caboose came squealing down the tracks into the valley, only to be thrust up again higher than you really wanted to go, always conscious that you had to come back down. The ride had begun in earnest when my parents divorced shortly before my sweet-sixteenth birthday. C propelled the ride, and I naively contributed time, energy, money, and support to keep her going from one crisis to the next.

When I got to college, my new friends and professors didn’t care about C. For the first time in recent history, she was irrelevant. Her drama which invaded my life in a multitude of ways as a high school student, no longer mattered. It was all about me. After living a life in which everything that happened to me was filtered through the lens of how it would affect C, it was refreshing to my soul to be able to just BE without her shadow cast over me.

Yes, she was still in my life, though not for long. I felt buoyant, floating in a new dimension. I had prayed that my life would be calm, but had begun to doubt it would ever happen. But it had. I began to move in a world where learning was valued not just as an ends to a mean (college degree = rich college husband in C’s mind), but as a good in life. Music, science, literature, friendship, laughter, good books, and hard work refreshed me, renewed me and filled me with hope. The stark contrast of the chaos of my pre-college life and orderliness, purpose and joy of my life in college enabled me to make some hard decisions about my family relationships. My heart softened toward my father and our relationship was restored. I was reunited with my brother R (who had been praying for me during the four years we had been estranged following our father and C’s divorce).

The little lessons and joys of college quickly taught me a big lesson, not to allow my soul to be taken captive by fear and dread. I had confirmation that God is indeed faithful and He hears my prayers and His desire is for relationships to be restored, and love and faith to prevail over fear and dread.

one voice, varied thoughts (Karen)

Over the weekend, a friend of mine expressed her concern over some of the posts on this blog. My response to her is something I think needs to be stated here.

We are a group of Christian women (our number seems to be growing) who believe that going to college can be a good choice for a Christian woman. We do not believe it is the only choice nor do we believe that everyone has to pursue an education, formal or not, in the same way.

We do hope that we challenge the thinking of those who believe that college is a wrong choice for women and we especially disagree with the voices of those out there who say it is a sin for a young woman to go to college.

From time to time there will be posts that cause me, personally, to strongly disagree, even react. This is a good thing! Not only does it stretch me but also those who read all of us as one pro-college-for-women voice. I hope that we can demonstrate that we are able to sharpen each others' iron while maintaining our unity about women and college.

Letter to Biblus Sempronius, Defense of the Liberal Instruction of Women (Camille)

From Laura Cereta, 1488:

"Women have been able by nature to be exceptional, but have chosen lesser goals. For some women are concerned with parting their hair correctly, adorning themselves with lovely dresses, or decorating their fingers with pearls or other gems. Others delight in mouthing carefully composed phrases, indulging in dancing, or managing spoiled puppies. Still others wish to gaze at lavish banquet tables, to rest in sleep, or standing in mirrors, to smear their lovely faces. But those in whom a deeper integrity yearns for virtue, restrain from the start their youthful souls, reflect on higher things, harden the body with sobriety and trials, and crub their tongues, open their ears, compose their thoughts in wakeful hours, their minds in contemplation, to letters bonded to righteousness. For knowledge is not given as a gift, but [is gained] with diligence. The free mind, not shirking effort, always soars zealously toward the good, and the desire to know grows ever more wide and deep. It is because of no special holiness, therefore, that we [women] are rewarded by God the Giver with the gift of exceptional talent. Nature has generously lavished its gifts upon all people, opening to all the doors of choice through which reason sends envoys to the will, from which they learn to convey its desires. The will must choose to exercise the gift of reason.

"[But] where we [women] should be forceful we are [too often] devious; where we should be confident we are insecure. [Even worse], we are content with our condition."

Friday, July 08, 2005

Confusion about having a college girl (Mollie)

Due to some recent confusion raising the questions, "Who has got a college girl?" and "Is this blog promoting the shameful practice of going to college in order to earn an MRS. degree?" We give you, the college-girl readership, sidebarrage answering such questions and, hopefully, giving a more noble explanation than many of you might expect.

edited to say, note the revised side-bar.

thanks for the input, girls!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

wise words on anti-college trend (Karen)

I discovered this quote tonight and thought it belonged here. It came from an interesting website called www.patriarchy.org. I have been pleasantly surprised by the content on this site. This was written by Andrew Sandelin.

Apron-Centered, Kitchen-Table Tutelage
The authority that some patriarchalists arrogate to themselves truly borders on tyranny. One has written that a father who sends his daughter off to college is guilty of irresponsibility. Apparently, all daughters must maintain residence in their father’s household to be deemed “under authority.” Not a shred of Biblical evidence supports this theory and, in fact, at times the father may be guilty of irresponsibility if he does not dispatch an intellectually gifted daughter to college. (The idea that children should ordinarily stay home and take Internet college courses is fraught with peril. We will never train culture-reclaiming physicians, nuclear physicists, and engineers by such apron-centered, kitchen-table tutelage.)

Obsequious Sons
Patriarchalists sometimes do even a greater disservice to sons. In ancient, clan-based societies, a son (even one in his thirties and forties) would remain obsequiously apprenticed to his father and would become the new, blood-based patriarch only when his father died. This is a pagan idea, not a Biblical one, even though some patriarchalists today demand almost unswerving obedience and servanthood from their forty-year old married sons. Sometimes in the process they completely trample on their sons’ obvious gifts, which could be used most profitably elsewhere. Any daughter-in-law that that permits such an outrage will suffer greatly for it.


You can read the entire article here.

contention and concession (joy)

Not that I want to play devil's advocate here, but I think it seems only fair (and in the interest of arguing with integrity) that we acknowledge some of the remonstrations that are brought up against the prospect of sending a Christian daughter (often away from home) to a college, be it a Christian or secular school.

What are some of these questions and griefs raised? I'm not even completely familiar with them. What are the real or perceived (i.e., very real to some) dangers of a college education for the godly young woman? Of what are some of these parents or pastors leery?

We don't need to be dismissive in our attempts to be persuasive. In fact, I think we have a solidly convincing case. We needn't fear that conceding a few legitimate or at least potentially (in someone's world) possible concerns will destroy our faith in how God used higher education to form us into more capable and loving servants for Him.

So I'll start. I wonder are some people concerned that a young Christian girl might lose her focus or get overwhelmed by all the opportunities afforded her in a liberal arts education at the university level? I confess. That happened to me. I often joke that I managed to cultivate a hopeless case of ADHD when I was in college, that I minored in Extracurricular Activities, that I did indeed change my major at least once, that I became a Mountain Dew addict, that I lost tolerance for noise and for caraway seeds, that I wanted to be the wife of an evangelist-missionary-carpenter-accountant-cellist (depending on the predicted vocation of whichever boy held my interest at the time), and that I knew all the dorm girls' last names but couldn't seem to recall my New Testament chapter content for the quizzes. And that's not the half of it. So there. Guilty. As charged.

On the other hand, I honestly believe that God is big enough to work in us and our circumstances IN SPITE OF us. We're going to have to learn some of those hard growing-up lessons somewhere, sometime: prioritizing, scheduling, simplifying our lives, building vital relationships, undergoing the shame and pain of well-earned rebuke and consequences of our choices. And that's not the half of it. We're there to learn. We might retain some good and some bad along with the diploma we actually set out to achieve. But college, like any context wherein a Christian finds himself, is just another milieu for God to continue to work sanctification in our hearts.

I learned some negative things at college, but I also believe in a sovereign God Who used a fallible group of men and women, by His grace in all of our lives, to work out His agenda for me at that time in my life (partly for how it would benefit me now and in the future, and mostly for His own glory).

What else do people have against higher education for their Christian daughters and for their young female parishioners? I'm confident, not arrogantly so but certainly assured, that college was good for me, the best thing for me at that time in my life. A privilege and a gift from God Himself which I don't dare take lightly. What are the issues against it? Are there legitimate concerns that we could address? Misunderstandings that we might eradicate with some facts, an appropriate word in season? I'm game.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Women's Ways of Knowing (Camille)

I can't forget Carol Gilligan from the 1970s:

"Women often feel alienated in academic settings and experience 'formal' education as either peripheral or irrelevant to their central interests and development. . . . In everyday and professional life, as well as in the classroom, women often feel unheard even when they believe that they have something important to say. Most women can recall incidents in which either they or female friends were discouraged from pursuing some line of intellectual work on the grounds that it was 'unfeminine' or incompatible with female capabilities. Many female students and working women are painfully aware that men succeed better than they in getting and holding the attention of others for their ideas and opinions. All women grow up having to deal with historically and culturally engrained definitions of femininity and womanhood--one common theme being that women, like children, should be seen and not heard." (4-5).

Friday, July 01, 2005

Little Sisters go to College too (Camille)

My big brother, Steve, has always loomed large in my life. He’s eight years older than I, and wow – I’ve grown up wanting to be just like him. And it is weird that two people in the same family would both have Ph.D.s in Rhetoric. That’s weird! But it makes for terrific dinner conversation.

He told me that I had to go to Bob Jones or he’d disown me. He was joking. But I didn’t know that. I hung on his every word. Visiting BJU to see him on T-giving and Easter and to see all his graduations was like going to a second home. I loved it. I loved everything about this place. All the boys. Wow – ALL the boys looked neat and clean and were polite. I had a crush on every single one that I saw. Every single one. I even married one that is probably the neatest one in the bunch. He’s so tidy!

My first semester Steve was on faculty. I tried NOT to hang on his arms like I was used to, but I so wanted to. I felt so proud to know that MY brother was still a BMOC and on faculty. I complained about the usual things that freshman complain about. He listened politely and comforted me through the throes of those first semester.

He married and moved to start his Ph.D. work when I became a sophomore, and I was really on my own. And in a way, that’s when I came into my own. I was away from that looming personality. I was myself.

And I finally got to be the bigger sister to my roommates. I pulled pranks on them. Hid teddy bears. Kidnapped baby blankets. Wrote ransom notes for beloved objects. Short-sheeted beds. Good stuff.

If I didn’t find myself though outside of my brother, I would have always stood in his shadow. Neither of us wanted that, but that’s still what would have happened. I would have always been just the little sister.

And now, I’m a sister. His peer. And I can spar with him like no other.

Getting the Job Done (Mollie)

When I got to college I realized fairly quickly that I possessed an undesireable amount of laziness. Certainly, I've always been productive, with many interests, always having several projects brewing inside my proverbial cauldron. But after two days of classes I sat down on the floor of my room with new textbooks and made lists, a calendar of sorts, plotting the impossible task of "getting all of this stuff done." Needless to say, I was completely overwhelmed. With eighteen credits standing tall in front of me, Christmas-break so small and squinty in the distance, I honestly did not know if I would make it.

I learned right away that a music major does not have a social life. And if she does, she is shirking her practicing responsibilities, for she can always practice for just one more hour, and if she really believes that her fingers cannot tinkle another ivory, she knows that she still has a pile of bookwork waiting in her room. All of my friends did their bookwork while I was practicing and at the end of the day I still had an entire night of chapters to read and papers to write.

Aside from the academic responsibilities, there were the little annoyances of required activities and an imposed bedtime, something that myself and the other owls in the school despised and complained about on a near daily basis. It seemed that whenever I was about to stake my flag into the mountain of work to do that some required event would pop up and I would be just barely behind again.

I learned two things from this: first, that no matter how much there is to do and no matter how little time one has to accomplish the tasks at hand, it all gets done. This is an invaluable skill to have! And while I worried my way through grad school, every assignment was completed, every project executed. My life has slowed down considerably and yet this remains true: there is no reason to be overwhelmed, there is always enough time, and there is always the ability to muster enough energy to get the job done.

Secondly, I greatly increased in productivity. My creative output was greater each year that I studied and worked. And while previously I was able to "get things done" and was always busy, the years that I spent in college and grad school taught me that working hard is more enjoyable than being lazy, that there is nothing more enjoyable than the stress of working to accomplish a daunting task, and that there is nothing more satisfying than a job well done. Certainly, without college I could appreciate these things on a certain level, but without being pushed and stretched, without holding the potential ball of wrath of a particular professor in my hands, I think that my drive to create and accomplish would be severely diminished. What a sorry loss! With a lifetime of productivity ahead of me outside of the academic world, six years of formal education is a small price to pay.

The First Thing I Learned in College (Allison)

The first thing I learned in college was that cardboard boxes can be a decorative item.

When I arrived on the steps of the freshman girls' dorm along with my mother and my father, and my entire material existence stuffed into the back of a my old Accord, I was completely unprepared for life with a long-term roomate. An only child, I'd never actually shared sleeping quarters with anyone for more than the three weeks I spent at summer camp.

Though my "roomie" and I had been placed together by a random "potluck," we had met earlier that year at a girls' scholarship program. Besides participating in the program's state finals together (we both played piano for the talent portion and were one of the top 4 academic finalists), we also both had played varsity high school tennis and we brought brand new laptops to begin our college career. We even coordinated our decor weeks prior to that first day-- I brought curtains and a stereo, she brought a fridge. Despite our frighteningly similar extra-curricular attributes, though, we were two very different Alabama girls. For one, she had a steady boyfriend and I did not. She was also immaculate.

I thought I was fairly well-organized (I always meticulously packed my camp foot locker and alphabetized and sorted my books by genre, though the trunk never returned home quite the same way it left and my system always needed extensive maintenance). However, I was unprepared for the space-efficient aesthetic mentality that arrived just as my dad was ordering some poor sophomore guy to crawl under my bed and put it up on cement blocks. I was definitely not prepared for the fruitful results of repeated summer trips to Big Lots, including the aforementioned storage boxes.

They came three to a pack, and were meant to hold important files. For my roommate, however, they contained all the odds-and-ends (hats, sweaters, old yearbooks) that I was happy just to stick on top of the armoire. She had a place for everything. If it didn't fit one of the normal categories like in the closet, the bureau, or under the bed, then it went in the boxes. These were not ordinary cardboard boxes, either--oh no. Their practical purpose was concealed beneath a blue and white toile pattern (long before toile was the fashionistas' rage). They had lids! And handles! In comparison, my plastic laundry basket and mis-matched shoe boxes seemed tacky, obtrusive, and mundane.

My roommate's obsessive attention to streamlined household appearances versus my unique flair for personalized "artistic clutter," suggest only some of the conflicts that would arise during that first year away from my parents' home. However, looking back I know now that learning to deal with those conflicts (or realizing that I handled some things really badly) has prepared me for my life during the rest of college and beyond. I recall lessons I learned about trust, honesty, and respect that I am still enacting through my marriage.

Most of all, I've come to believe that college is a type of boot camp for forming authentic relationships. I can see now that my roommate's influence on my relational life has been substantial. Because of her, there will be absolutely NO baby-talk, ever, between me and my husband, especially not in public or over the phone while someone else is in the room, but also because of her, my relationship with my mom has improved--I call more often than every fortnight now-- and I've learned that girl friends are the best counselors in the world. I'd like to tell her "thank you."

The telling sign that I've taken her positive examples to heart? My next trip to the store involves buying some of the previously despised clutter-controlling and aesthetically pleasing cardboard boxes. In blue.