Oberlin Blogs


March 30, 2013

Ida Hoequist ’14

I want it to be summer.

1. It's supposed to get to 55 degrees today. The sun has been shining for the past two days, and I know the weather forecast for next week is back to the same old freezing rain, but I'm looking out my beautiful, ancient, ill-fitting windows right now, and I see grass outside. I see a sky with blue in it - water for thirsty eyes.

2. I've been wearing boots for months now, but I wore the most thin-soled shoes I own yesterday and the day before that, and my feet are remembering what the ground feels like. My toes aren't boxed up my boots anymore - they're working when I walk. I've never had sore toes before, but it feels right.

3. I took a walk with a friend last week and saw a flower bed full of budding crocuses, which almost made me cry a little because crocuses belong to the springs of my childhood, in Denmark. (Crocuses don't really grow in Alabama. You would have to refrigerate the bulbs.)

4. I have been listening to all the songs I associate with warm weather. Maybe I am hoping they will be an incantation to make the sun come.

5. I want to walk outside in shorts and a t-shirt and break out into acrobatics on the lawn with my friends. I want sidewalk chalk (I saw some hopscotch happening yesterday!) and porch swings and skinny dipping by night and something other than gosh darn root vegetables. I want to enjoy fresh fruit.

6. I want to erase the word 'deadline' from my vocabulary.

7. A treasured memory from my one Oberlin summer: I am walking home from a dear friend's house, nearing Tappan, and I hear one of my favorite, most danceable big band tunes wafting over from the bandstand. There is a concert happening that I knew nothing of. Tappan is carpeted in clouds of fireflies, herds of lawn chairs with grey-haired folks in them, and families on blankets with little kids dancing to Glen Miller music.
I want that again.

I feel pale and worn thin. I want the summer.

This is what I miss.

Oberlin is taxing. It has this way of sucking every part of me into it, even if I'm determined to dial back my involvement (like I was at the beginning of this term, hah). It used to be that I just felt like there were too many events and clubs and fun things for me to dream of keeping up with; these days, I feel like I'm having to choose not just between commitments, but also between parts of myself. I feel like I'm having to choose between being a good student, a good partner, a good human, and a good Ida - and I heartily dislike feeling like I need to make that choice.

Being a good student is straightforward, for me. I'm in one German seminar and three linguistics courses this semester, and I know exactly what I need to do to learn what I need to learn and produce what I need to produce. The path is clear. It's not necessarily an easy path, but at least I can see it.

Being a good partner is harder. The thicket of care and intentionality and open-mindedness and soul-searching and serious, ouchy blunders that grows around and between two humans when they move into each other's heads is... exhausting. And rewarding, and sometimes fun. And often consumes my brain. I could keep chucking out words here, but I think I'll end it with this one: it's intricate.

Being a good human is harder still. I want so much to do good for my peers - and for everyone who isn't handed the opportunities I've been given in my life, really - but I am not the kind of leader who can effect widespread change, I think. I'm not much of a leader at all; I have enough trouble keeping tabs on my own life. I can be an ally in my limited sphere of human contact, yes, and I know that I can do good on that scale. But that feels unsatisfactory. This community (also this country, and this world) needs great changes, and I feel like all good humans should be working tirelessly to make those large-scale changes happen.

I wish I were better at large-scale.

(And if I knew how to reach any of these good human goals, that would be one thing, but the hard part about being a good human is that no one can really tell you how to get there.)

Being a good Ida is hardest of all. I don't understand the first thing about myself. I know that am an introvert, because I will happily spend days at a time hanging out with myself, without any other meaningful human contact; it nourishes me. I like myself more when I am alone. I can tell who I am when I am alone. Then again, inherently shared activities like acrobatics and music also nourish me terrifically. But I also worry about how self-centered they are. The (copious) time that I set aside for acro and my instruments could go to being a good human instead. Should it? The feeling that I am very selfish in my choice of pastimes is doing battle in me with the knowledge that it is necessary to take care of your body and heart, and the knowledge that I will never again be in a place that has as many perfect pastimes as Oberlin does, and the very important knowledge that the act of living radically is in itself an act of resistance. I don't know what to do about this battle. I mean, there's a lovely life advice quote about doing whatever makes you come alive1 that sounds about right to me, but not everyone has the chance to even do that much. A whole lot of people can't, in fact, do whatever makes them happiest, because the cards are stacked against them from day one - and that's crap. That is crap. So who am I to sit back and bask in my unfairly achieved alive-ness while that is going on?

Even if I don't try to concern myself with such ponderances, I still don't know what is best for me, because I still don't know me! I am young, I am still unwrapping myself. And: it doesn't help that rational Ida and emotional Ida have lately been at odds. (My perfectionism has been running especially rampant this year, and, from time to time, I have incapacitating bouts of sadness and shame that always trace back to a feeling of profound incompetence. Fixing that is one more number on the list of things that I don't know how to do.)

The thing is, I want to be good at everything, all at the same time, because it's all terribly important. I resent that I'm not, and I resent being made to choose. I resent the day - why does it not have more hours! I resent myself for being so unknown to me and for caring so much! I resent Oberlin for piling the weight of these considerations on me... And I love all of these things in equal measure. I love the shortness of the day for making me rest periodically. I love my complexity; I love sitting with myself for long stretches of time and still being able to say that I've forgotten what boredom feels like. I love Oberlin for not letting me lose sight of how important it is to be stellar at being me, at being with someone else, at being human.

One thing I know about myself: if Ron Weasley has the emotional range of a teaspoon, I have the emotional range of a whole cutlery set. A confused, tired cutlery set that would very much like the world to go back to being crocuses and long bike rides, please.

In sum: Eeyore, from Winnie the Pooh. (Found on photobucket.)

I know this post is rather unfocused and not cheery at all, but it approximates, in an honest way, how I have been feeling (namely, privileged, overworked, small, and a bit lost). I shall end on a fitting note of uncertainty: I don't know which thought I find worse, the possibility that my sort of overwhelmed fatigue is rare in Oberlin or the possibility that everyone gets it for a bit sooner or later.

1. "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." -Howard Thurman

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