Tag Archives: books

Breaking without Recovery


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Despite the affect of finals and furious thesis writing to my general health, the common, end-of-semester exhausted wave of immobility is yet to fall.  The last paper was completed with great expectation, but the familiarity of the end-of-semester load and realization that it isn’t actually done (thesis work and job searching this beautiful break) keeps that “what will I do with my life for the next month” feeling at bay.

Sometimes I just sit and think and write and think and draw and think some more, and now that colloquium is over, I can pretty much do this all I want.  My mind combs through books and conversations, ordering them and categorizing their arguments.  There are days where I will spend the whole day just trying to fill in the diagrams that I draw in my carrel, which are often a mix of color-coordinated arrows connecting loosely associated terms attached to a timeline.

These long days have a funny connection to graduation.  All this thesis work should be pulling me away from my job applications, career research, and networking opportunities, and who knows; maybe they are.  But it has been my evenings over these crazy old books (and sometimes the really old handwritten notes I find inside of them) that all those post-graduate life questions start to make the most sense.

I got the impression that second semester senior year was suppose to be frightening and disorderly.  After all, I am officially homeless in five months.  But instead, it is just very, very exciting.  My mind bubbles over with ideas and half formed sentences, but my heart races with the possibilities of where those ideas could take me.


Quiet Again, SB Day 11

Picnic on Foss Hill.

I thought I would get bored, or perhaps more appropriately, I was afraid I would.

Normally, my mornings begin at 9 and end at 2am, meaning that besides my regular 4pm nap (a truly golden 20-45 minutes), it is unceasing.

But I made it that way–on purpose.  The create-your-schedule of the last 8 months had it’s plusses, but for all its problems, I missed this place.  Naturally, I thought once all the activity stopped, so would my love for it.

I was a bit crushed when, after some number-crunching, I decided it best to ditch my spring break DC plans and take in New England, but for all its normalcy, it has proved every bit as restful as Christmas break…even with 40 hours of work in the library.

I finally finished my imovie of my semester abroad, which is a huge accomplishment and have found total fulfillment in meaningless articles, photos, and blogs online to fill the rest of the time.  Undoubtedly, not quite as high reaching as the armload of books I planned on reading over break, but that always happens.

Almost thesis-related books.

I read nice and slowly, enjoying it without rush when there’s no pressure.  But that’s probably a good thing too, although, I must say that I am direly lamenting the fact that, and I am not exaggerating, Olin Library does not have a single book related to my thesis.

Perhaps this will be enough to finally push books out of its position as my 2nd biggest living expense and into first.

Inter-library loan anybody??


Food fairs and books

Though we always mean to explore a new part of the city, Veronica and I somehow always end up back at Sol on Saturdays.  But it never really seems to matter, because we still always find something new.

Like today…

1. An international foods fair in Plaza Mayor.  Nothing like Ecuadorian chicken and rice and a Colombian tamale to warm you up on a chilly day.  (and trust me, it was cold.  probably cold enough that I ought to put away my summer flats)

2. I met an American lawyer, who while somewhat vague as to her specific job description, works for the federal government.  She started talking to us, because she heard English and wanted to know what was in my tamale.

I love all the crazy people you meet when you travel.  It was even crazier that after our brief conversation, she guessed that I wanted to be a lawyer too, even though I hadn’t told her what I study or what I want to do.  I asked her how she knew, and she just said it was in how I presented myself.  She and her husband arrived today and are staying for a month.  We talked outside in the plaza until it started to rain.  If the weather hadn’t cut us off, I would have asked for her business card.

3. I watched some guy attempt to pick Veronica up again.  She gets hit on so much, it’s almost become comical.  Fortunately, our conversation with the lawyer served as a very effective diversion and the guy got lost.

After Sol, we wondered around Nuevos Ministerios, which while I transfer trains there everyday, I’ve only actually left the train station there once.  So we explored.

Pride and Prejudice

After awhile, I wandered back to the bookstore I visited the one other time I was in the area.   I found book I flipped through on that September night, the one that I opened and realized for the first time that I could actually read, understand, and learn in Spanish.

I bought it this time, because I would love to fall asleep contemplating the tactical strategy employed by the British at Waterloo, but mostly because that moment when I was looking at it and realized I could read a book without looking up every other word felt so good.  And I need those little reminders.

And even though I’ve read Hobbes’ Leviathan 3x (in English, I understand it in English), I’m still not sure I can explain it on my upcoming test in intro to law.  And that frustrates me, a lot.  My Las Grandes Batallas de la Historia is just a personal reminder that while I still don’t get everything, I really do get a lot.

I need nights like tonight so bad.  Careless, thoughtless, and fun.  By the end, Veronica and I were just walking down a busy street in the dark and cold, talking about friends and relationships, what it’s really like to study abroad, our professional aspirations, and history.

I realized that it had been so long since I’ve spent a lot of time someone who doesn’t mind geeking out a little bit.  As we were going down the stairs to our respective metros, I was quite passionately discussing Napoleon’s fall to Veronica while she chewed me out for my wholly inadequate knowledge of Alexander the Great.  It was great.


By George,

I found it.

The Study Corner

In the library, on the first floor, towards the back, in the corner.

internet √

plug √

just enough noise √

comfy chair √

space to spread out √

Unfortunetely, it’s at the campus library, meaning I have one hour hike to get there, but I’m thinking the time investment to study will make me all the more productive.  I accomplished more in my 3 hours there than I have in the last week, no kidding.  It felt sooo good.

I might not understand everything, and I’m surely not a genius…but if I’m in the right place and have the right materials, I could win a gold medal in studying.


Define the Origin of the Soul

I wish I could remember all the topics covered tonight at the dinner table, but unfortunately that would be impossible.  I am currently at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute conference for Honor’s Program Fellows.  Quite a mouthful, but what it really means is that I get to spend an entire week with 49 other students and handfuls of professors who actually love studying the same things I do.  The theme is the Language of Liberty.  We certainly have quite a bit of variation in opinions and interpretations, but I have NEVER been in an intellectual environment where I could pose these questions with my peers who were coming at it from the same general perspective as me.   Differences of opinion are more nuanced than they are in, say, CSS at Wesleyan.

I LOVE THIS.  The lectures have been fascinating, but what I love most are free times where I can talk to the other students.  In casual conversation topics on the intersections of faith and politics, the beginnings of modernity, Catholicism (there are a lot of Catholics here), ancient philosophers, what its like to be a conservative at our universities, etc.  Never in my life have I wished that I actually knew Latin and been acutely away of all the authors I have not yet read as much as I have this week.

Tonight mentors (professors) and the mentees (3 per mentor) were taken out to nice restaurants close to our quaint Inn (all the rooms are named after a person of local historical importance and there is a canopy over my bed)  on the water near Baltimore, Maryland.  I can’t say I was much of a fan of the Italian food, but was throughly impressed that I was confident of which fork and spoon to use at all times (although I wasn’t quite so confident in my knowledge of how to delicately eat an un-pitted olive in that kind of setting)  Much of my dinner table conversation focused on Dante, the premodern age (very dense conversation), and the opera.  As we were getting up to leave, someone asked my mentor, a professor at the University of King’s College in Nova Scotia what the origins of the soul was.  That was perhaps a bit too metaphysical for me, but it served as a great conversation starter at hospitality tonight, where we joined the rest of the fellows for cocktails and conversation.

I’m still throughly deep bureaucracy of preparing all my affairs for the coming semester, which is still proving to be quite a headache.  However, in light of how incomprehensibly amazing it is to be here, that  frustration has become a limited frustration, and that is wonderful.

canopied beds at the Admiral Fell Inn

Exterior view of the Inn


Color-Coded Accompaniments: Tori’s Map to Law School

I made it tonight.  That list. The big one. The one with percentiles, LSAT scores, and GPAs, all broken up by geographic region of the country.  The bulleted list of everything I have to do for every season between now and winter 2013, including number of study hours per week, test dates, and times to research schools too.  I charted my current academic benchmarks and goals, and it hangs to the left of the agenda just to serve as reminder of all that I have to do to get where I want to go.

I do realize that I openly stating this online, I am admitting that I am in fact 100% geek, but I have no problem owning up to that.  My little color-coded charts might just be enough to label me a nut, but it’s like this.  It’s the only way I know how to handle it.

It– the pressure.  I’m yet to start my junior year, and I already feel as though I am out of time.  The summer’s half over, and while it is a great honor, I’ve committed myself to several hefty additions to my reading list by participating the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s Honor’s Program. In August, it’s off to Spain.  When I get back, I’ll be devoting myself to putting together a conservative lecture series for the fall of 2012.  Wesleyan might not be abundant with folks of my political persuasion, but I’m not going to leave without having done everything in my power to express my thoughts to my peers.  That’s been an up and down adventure, but I want to leave having done it right.  My mind has been spinning with senior thesis topics since I was a freshman, and you can bet that I’ll soon be completely sold out to some micro-specific topic that almost no one else will have any interest in at all, but I’ll get a total kick out of it.

My crazy charts and lists are there to prove that the fear that I will not have time to prepare for the LSAT ever becomes a realization.  It’s there to prove that while I might not be sleeping, I’m not sleeping with purpose.  And I think that makes all the difference in the world.


I am going to law school.

Last night, I took the Indiana team to the Getz’s for pizza and ice cream on the rooftop. They do this with every team.  It’s a way for his family to spend a little time with every group that comes and for them to hear about missional living in the city.  While they talked, I listened and stared out Jeff’s window at the Queensboro Bridge.  I didn’t mean to start praying, but it was just like I was quiet and God started talking, not like with words, but with peace, order, and sense.

Queensboro Bridge at sunset

For a long time law school has been a short answer to the question “what do you want to do with your life?”  It takes a enough time to explain to someone what the College of Social Studies is (my major).  If they listen to that, they usually don’t have the attention span for a 4 minute well-if-I-move-back-to-DC-I-might-do-this or I-know-what-I’m-skilled-and-passionate-about-but-not-sure-how-I’ll-be-using-them-yet speech.  So law school works, but it was more of a default then anything.

I know a few important things about law school.

1) It’s mighty pricey with little to no financial aid.

2) It requires a significant time commitment (before to study for the LSAT, during to graduate, after to pass the bar, and after to pay debt)

4) It will compromise time that I could spend building important business contacts that I could get if I just went for my Masters in Public Policy instead.

5) It will affect my relationships.  I will not have the time to build as many strong friendships, limit when I can see my family, and very likely delay when I will get married and have a family of my own.

But I know several other things too, more important than anything on the above list. My decision to go to law school has nothing to do with how many checks I have on a pros and cons list.  I only want to go if I can get in a top tier law school, but this has nothing to do with pride either.  I am fully capable of spending my whole life taking out the trash and cleaning restrooms in public schools.  To be honest, I think I would make a wonderful custodian.  I would do a good job and use it as a place to live out my faith missionally.  I don’t feel like going to fancy law school makes me any better or gives me the ability to influence any more people than a custodian or a bus driver has.  I just feel like law school is place where I will better be applying the specific talents and interests God’s given me.

It’s like this.  I have certain skill set.  I love reading old books on history, government, and political theory.  I love the CSS (College of Social Studies) set up- making my own arguments, defending them, and writing about them.  This year I am fellow in the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s undergraduate Honors Program, and I just received my first shipment of books.  It’s amazing.  It’s like doing CSS, but only with books that I love.

When I think about education and knowledge, I always think about that parable in Matthew 25.  It’s the one where the three servants receive a certain number of talents from a man.  The servants do different things with the talents, but the man who only received one buried it in the ground.  When the master came back, he was the only one that did not return more talents to his master than what he had originally been given.  His explanation?  “I was afraid.” (vs. 25).

This morning, I joined the team on the prayer walk around New York City. We go to various locations, discuss their significances and what they symbolize, and use that symbol to pray for the city.  The New York Public Library symbolizes knowledge.  There are a lot of intelligent people here, but very little wisdom.  I have the interest and ability to acquire the knowledge and bring Godly wisdom to places that would otherwise be inaccessible.

At the South Asian Community Center, they breach language barriers to reach people who otherwise would never come in contact with the Gospel.  I’m going to do that at law school.  I don’t imagine language will be an obstacle there, but there are mighty high barriers to entry.  I know I can cross those barriers, and once I’m there, I will let my approach to my studies glorify God.  I didn’t understand how to do that for a long time, but I think I figured it out this year.  I was stressed, very stressed, but I learned the difference between stress and fear and fear and worry.

I pray that this explanation doesn’t come across as a mere Christian platitude.  If you’ve heard me talk about law school, it might not even seem like a big deal, but it was, because now law school isn’t just something I’m thinking about.  It’s something I’m going to do, because it’s the place I’ve been called.

amen.