Return to Suburbia

At several points during the summer, I contemplated the idea of living in Boston year-round. “I probably could, but I think I would miss driving too much,” was usually my response. I like the experience of being on the road, especially with a good soundtrack to keep me company, or good company to entertain me with conversation. After watching Elizabethtown, I’ve wanted to take a solo road trip around the country to visit a combination of significant and obscure landmarks. Driving is even one of my favorite activities on facebook.

Now that I have returned to the suburbs after a month in Boston, I’m not so sure I would miss driving as much as I thought. I spent the last six weeks relying on my own two feet and MBTA, with only one round-trip drive in a car during the entire time in Boston. I liked having unlimited rides on my T pass, giving me the freedom to hop onto a subway car and ride to the studio or the harbor or the beach. To my surprise, I really enjoyed walking too. Sometimes I walked with purpose, with the grocery store or a restaurant as my destination. I think more often than that, I walked rather aimlessly, choosing a direction and going, hoping I wouldn’t get caught in the rain or become too tired for the return home. It was on these walks that I stumbled upon Chinatown, a festival for AccessSportAmerica, the Cheers bar, and a graffiti-covered railway bridge over the Charles River. I’m not usually one for exercise, but I enjoyed the time outdoors over the time spent idling inside. I don’t really have the opportunity to explore or walk around aimlessly in the suburbs, though one would think it should be safer. Rather, pedestrians are limited to the shoulders of bustling roadways to get them from residential developments to shopping centers. The other day, I drove from my house to Chick-Fil-A across the street, a distance I would have walked without question in Boston. It’s probably as far from my house as the Kenmore Square T stop is from our dorm. It seemed senseless to me, and with that I began to think I could do without driving and live in a city long-term, provided there is a good public transit system there. So at this point, I am allowing myself to look at jobs in Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC, and Chicago (I couldn’t afford to live in NYC…) and using an exercise ball I bought after driving to the store.

Pleasant Surprises

I think God has been blessing me so much through this experience of being in Boston. I find myself in the company of so many people with such diverse backgrounds, yet at the same time, I also find myself in the company of fellow believers. I was able to go to Park Street Church on Sunday night with two other staff members and two students, which was a great end to a long day. I hope to get back to that church on July 12, because Joni Eareckson Tada will be speaking as part of their bicentennial celebration. I had the opportunity to meet a student from Australia, who is the child of two missionaries and used to attend the Hillsong Church. Today I was reading Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller and discovered some fellow fans of Blue Like Jazz. At dinner, we had a brief discussion about courtship versus dating, because one of the ladies on staff is reading Choosing God’s Best by Don Raunikar, a book that I started but haven’t finished reading yet. I haven’t thought about courtship in quite a while. I think I got tired of reading about courtship and dating, since I was not involved in either one. None of it seemed very relevant. Though I still don’t find it relevant to my current situation, it would be interesting to revisit those books just to see what I think of it all now. Speaking of relationships, this morning’s ice breaker turned very interesting. I led our staff in a round of 20 questions, where we each write one question and answer whichever question we pick out of a hat. My question was “Where was your first kiss?” and my answer was “I will let you know when it happens.” That was met by a chorus of What?!s and Cesar’s suggestion of making Spin the Bottle next week’s ice breaker. What a fascinating start to the day!

So far in Boston I have visited Mike’s Pastry and bought two cannolis (one chocolate-covered and the other, chocolate mousse); walked through Chinatown and watched a woman verbally accost the clerk while trying to find a Prada backpack (which I later found hanging on a rack) and her coffee (which her boyfriend drank); ate lunch on a dock by the Charles River; briefly visited the Holocaust Memorial; cashed a check at a fancy private bank; traveled to various area stores; and watched teenagers at the studio demonstrate why they were accepted to study this summer at one of America’s most elite programs.

The kids have been here for less than a week, and I’m looking forward to so much more.

::UPDATE:: Also in Boston I sang “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes in a Karaoke Bar (actually just a bar with a karaoke night) and didn’t get booed. The older guys in the front who usually booed said “This is a good song” when it started playing, and the whole place was singing along when it got to the “Hey-ey” part. I had a lot of fun without drinking even a sip from the bar. Oh yes, it’s possible.

High Hopes

There is something inherently open and trusting within Residence Life relationships. Though we have only been a group for two whole days, I can see how well our staff was chosen in terms of the dynamic we have already established. New staff members feel welcome to share their own residential experiences, returners share the wisdom that comes with specific Boston Ballet experiences, and we all have demonstrated a willingness to learn with and from one another. What is interesting, however, is that such willingness extends beyond the topic of our common summer mission into personal life experiences. Though a few people may dwell on the quieter side of the spectrum, I cannot say that our group has been exclusive in any way, which I find rather amazing. Sure, cliques may form. But as we learned in our training session with the consulting psychologist, cliques have a purpose and we should not try to separate them. If they did not have a purpose, they would have never formed in middle school. They give us a group to feel secure in because of the commonality. It is when cliques become malicious that they are dangerous.

But back to the inherent trust and openness… I am quite excited to see how the rest of the summer turns out. I have high hopes for our staff and what we will become because of the openness and acceptance I already see. Tonight was a particularly interesting (in a good way) night. After dinner, a group of us – five new staff members who are still new at navigating Boston’s public transportation system – decided to find a Dollar Tree based on some hurried directions from a veteran RC (Residential Counselor). It was quite an experience involving missed stops, landmarks with changed names, guidance by the scent of fried chicken, and directions from friendly strangers. But we got there with great joy and excitement, bought a bunch of stuff to use for our residents, and perhaps a few things for ourselves (including a $4 Red Sox shirt from A.J. Wright, which I will wear when I go to the game at Fenway Park in July). I think our successful excursion, without any bickering or catty “I told you we should have gotten off at that stop”, is a testament to the trust we have in each other and perhaps also in ourselves to make it through. When we returned, we decided we would stay at the dorm while the other RCs went to a karaoke bar. We thought we would watch a movie while preparing door decorations, but cell phone calls and missing DVD players canceled that plan. While I waited for the others to finish catching their loved ones up on our adventures, I turned on the tv and watched a special about teenage pregnancy. Reconvening in front of the tv, we ended up having a lengthy conversation about sex, society, and faith. While religion may normally be a topic that is avoided among unfamiliar company, it somehow became a very comfortable conversation. We knew that we were in a safe space to share our beliefs and opinions without judgment. And that, my friends, is a wonderful experience.

I wasn’t quite sure at the beginning of this week what life would be like outside of the Messiah bubble. For once, discussions of diversity during training did not center around race. There is an obvious variety of religious and political views. Just being in the urban setting of Boston presents its own set of differences. But I was most interested in seeing how the dynamics of faith and spirituality change outside of the bubble. I was quite intentional about omitting Messiah College’s classification as a Christian college from my introductions. In an environment where it cannot be assumed that everyone is a Christian, would my faith remain evident through the way I live my life? I have had friends at Messiah tell me that they can see Jesus in me, but sometimes I wonder exactly what they see. Is that just a Christian way of saying someone is really nice? Will my fellow RCs see a nice person, or something more?

Boston, Here I Come!

I got the call today – I have been accepted to work for the Boston Ballet this summer! I will be working as a Residential Counselor for their summer youth program at their Boston campus, where the 15- to 19-year-old students stay. They have another campus for their 10- to 14-year-old students. Needless to say, I am excited about this opportunity!

Though I have a job for the summer, I will continue searching for something more long-term (with benefits!). Recently, I have been focusing my search on positions in student affairs/residence life (i.e. RD jobs). It’s an area of great interest for me, and as a bonus, RDs don’t have to worry about finding housing. However, I get the feeling that my parents expect me to get a job in graphic design to put my degree (and education/tuition) to use. I see that. It makes sense. Why buy a car just to let it sit in a garage (though people do that too…)? So I’m hoping that this experience in Boston will give me some insight. Perhaps doing some res life work, outside the context of Messiah College, will help me discern if this is really what I want to pursue. Who knows – maybe I’ll end up going to grad school?

Getting closer to Boston…

Yesterday I had my second interview for a summer position with the Boston Ballet. It went well, and apparently my interviewer thinks the same. Today I was asked to provide four professional references, which is the next step in the process. I may find out soon if I will be spending the summer in Boston!