Oberlin Blogs

Christmas Revelations

January 14, 2011

Ida Hoequist ’14

This Christmas break has been the first time I've gone home since leaving last August. It's been tough in some ways and mondo rad in many others; overall, I'd call it a success, not least because I am more than satisfied with my Christmas loot. Books and wool socks and long-sleeved shirts? Yesss! (My seven-year-old self weeps for me. Excited about wool socks? Who is this strange college girl? Where did it all go wrong?!) I also rescued my Legos from the attic immediately upon arriving at home, and have been watching almost exclusively Disney movies for the past week or two. (My seven-year-old self is much more pleased with this.) The Disney binge has brought to my attention that neither Snow White nor Pocahontas seem to have noses. In fact, most of the heroines seem to be a bit challenged in the nasal department. Only in profile does more than just their nostrils appear, presumably because that would otherwise be a very disturbing profile. I must say I found their noselessness fairly disturbing nonetheless; I have a nose, like most people I know, so why do all the strong, pretty Disney women only have nostril holes?

My Oberlin self took a few steps back after I had these thoughts and appreciated the marriage of childish fun with critical, leaning-toward-feminist thought processes. If this is what college does to you, I am okay with that.

Besides immersing myself in childhood activities, I saw a few old friends and, most notably, drove four hours upstate to meet my godparents and their kids, who I hadn't seen in at least five years. The two kids ran around with interminable energy, complained unceasingly when cranky ("He's looking at me!"), and attacked their Legos with vigor upon being forcibly separated.

On the way down to breakfast in our hotel on the morning of our departure, an amicable-looking bald guy joined me on the elevator. He took one look at my Oberlin sweatpants and asked, "So do you actually go to Oberlin College?" I said that yes, I do in fact actually go to Oberlin College. Turns out he's friends with someone who works in Mudd Library, and, though I don't actually know his friend, I still count that as my first Obie encounter outside of Oberlin. I felt as if I was part of something greater, standing in an elevator in a random hotel in a random city, talking to a complete stranger about the merits of my favorite place in the whole world. I love that Oberlin enables the sense of overarching interconnectedness in moments like these.

All that unexpected thinking about Oberlin made me miss all of my Oberlin friends. I skyped with one of them last night and realized about three minutes into the conversation that he was not in his room at home, and that he was, in fact, in his room at Oberlin, which is right across from mine. His roommate joined in the skyping and I almost cried a little because I just miss Oberlin that much. (I love you guys!)

After that, I was forced to realize that breaks are, unfortunately, not bubbles, and that this meant I needed to get a move on, suck it up, and get back to work. Thank goodness my work consists of practicing gorgeous flute songs, writing applications for grants that will let me teach English in Tanzania over the summer, and working my way through my colossal to-read list. (The list is actually a pile of books in my closet, since people give me books faster than I can consume them.) One of the first things I read was Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals. It was one of the most eye-opening books I've read in a while. I was somewhat miffed about this at first, because the knowledge it unleashed on me meant I had to immediately start rethinking my diet. This is more work than I've ever put into thinking about the food on my plate - thanks, parents and schools, for always providing me with groceries and meals! - not to mention that the conclusions I've reached make me a much pickier eater than I've spent the past eighteen years of my life being, and I feel like picky eating is bad manners.

Foer introduced me to the modern meat industry; specifically, to feedlots and factory farms. Those don't sit well with me, so I swore off conventional meat and then also read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan for some much-needed perspective. I've settled on being a conscientious omnivore rather than an animal-welfare-driven vegetarian, but that's still a world away from my usual "Why yes I will eat anything and everything on my plate, thanks very much" approach to food. Of all the things I was expecting to have happen this Christmas, complete destruction and reconstruction of a significant part of my worldview was not on the menu.

If this is what happens during a harmless little break, I don't know if I want to see what'll hit me during Winter Term. With my luck, probably a blizzard.

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