Thursday, December 6, 2007

Awkward Social Isolation to Comfortable Self-Isolation

Well, friends, the day I always knew would come (but have also always denied) has come. I can no longer deny that I am in fact an academic, and speak “the language” of “the scholars” that surround me.

Beginning in my days at Simpson College and heightened immediately upon my arrival at Garrett Seminary, I have often found myself isolated in the midst of conversations that happen in “obvious” places, such as the lunch table. I would engage in a conversation with peers… and then the next thing I know, they’re using words I have never heard before and arguing over theologians I’ve never heard of before. At the point I realized I had no idea what they were talking about, I would casually become “uninterested” or have a paper to work on, slipping on my headphones in order to make my isolation from whatever they’re talking about, become less obvious. Or at least it kept me from being so uncomfortable…

A few days ago, I was studying in the Northwestern student center with some fellow seminarians. With my headphones on as I worked diligently on an assignment, I found myself caught up in the midst of a (friendly!) debate between two friends. In great love, there was name-calling, use of words no normal person should know, and even comments like, “well do you know what this word means in Latin?” “Of course! It means…” As the debate continued, I took my headphones off and became intrigued by their discussion, finding myself to be in the middle of the two arguments. That’s when it happened.

They just weren’t hearing each other correctly. So I jumped in.
Me: “No, Kate, I think you misunderstood. What Audrey is trying to say is that…”
Audrey: “Yes! Exactly! Thanks, Jen!”
Kate: “oooohh…. well in that case…”
and it went on. As I had been in the middle of other work, I didn’t wish to become further distracted, so I slipped my headphones back on as I smiled and rolled my eyes at my beloved friends…

Then they called me on it. Jen- the one who claims for all that I am that I am NOT an academic- just took part in a very conversation she has sworn off. I took a step: I have moved from being isolated by such conversations, to isolating myself because I’m just not interested. From here on out, I can no longer deny that I am not an academic. They have promised to recall this very conversation next time I make such a claim, and I have no reason to believe they won’t…

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