Stranger than your sympathy

What? I’m actually writing a blog post less than a month after the previous one? NO WAY!

I’m in a much better state of mind than I was in my last post (although the printer is still rather uncooperative). It’s fall break for Luther and I have some much needed time on my own, to contemplate and rest and work. You don’t get that much time alone in college, and while you love the people you’re with, you see them so much. Breaks give you time to think and appreciate what’s in your life instead of scrambling to get to the next thing.

I’m thankful to stay here over break, too. If I had gone home, I would not be working on things like I did today. I made progress on my senior paper, drank coffee at Java John’s downtown, bought groceries, and got a good walk in. I’m in the middle of watching 2 Henry IV from the Hollow Crown series on PBS and following along in the text. Good way to close read and stay interested. I think I’m ready to start writing! We’ll see if I do before the end of break… I have other things planned too. Laura and I are going to Minneapolis on Tuesday to see Wicked and shop and go to pubs. 

I finally talked to my parents last night – I hadn’t since Sept. 26! And this morning I Skyped my cousin Laurel, who just moved to Boise. I’ll be going home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas (with my parents and grandparents coming here for Christmas at Luther in between those), but I have no idea what the plans are otherwise. I can’t think too hard about it with everything that’s coming up. I need to finish my Shakespeare paper by the end of the semester, as well as a 12-15 page paper for my seminar course, a couple papers for Renaissance Lit, a couple papers for Rhetoric, and my usual readings and commitments to Chips, Write On!, orchestra, and the Performing Arts Committee. I honestly could not have picked a better slate of activities, though. 

With Write On!, my duties as co-chair are to facilitate discussions within the group, come up with writing prompts, organize meetings and events, and serve as a liaison to the Student Organization staff. We took a trip to Seed Savers last weekend, from which you may have seen pictures on Facebook. Most of the time we spent chasing around the geese, who honked at us because they thought we had food. We also hung out at a little stream, sticking our feet in the cold water and chatting about youthful experiences. Our next endeavor is Storytellers, which is telling stories daily in Bentdahl Commons while students walk by on their way to classes in the early afternoon. In November we will hang out at Dragonfly Books in honor of National Novel Writing Month. (I’ve tried doing that a couple times but I got too stressed.)

For PAC, I am the historian, which means I document everything that goes on in the group, especially the fun we have together. I take pictures at events to show off what great things we do, and I set out the guestbook for our artists to sign. Then I volunteer in other ways as needed, which usually means helping with load-in and load-out. Our first show, Ring of Fire, was the most intense. We had to build a set that included a bridge and train tracks on top of that. But we got a strong volunteer effort and persevered to the end, even though it went until 2 a.m. I was so impressed with everyone that night, and since it was the first show, we are mentally prepared for other tough ones in the future. This past week was our third show, Tango Fire (yes, another fire one), which we thought would be very difficult but ended up not too badly. Unfortunately I couldn’t help out with it as much as I wanted to because it was on a Tuesday, and Tuesday night is a Chips night. I had to go back and forth between the two. When I got done with my page, I went back to the Center for Faith and Life, expecting to work on load-out, but everyone was done and eating pizza. Again, thanks to a strong volunteer effort and mental preparedness, we ran the show (as our t-shirts say).

Speaking of Chips… that has been an up-and-down experience. Similarly to PAC, it started out with a major obstacle that has made everything easier since. I guess I haven’t blogged about that yet! For the first issue, we learned on Sunday of some students who were arrested in a residence hall, which we needed to cover right away. I was laying out the front page and wanted to put the story on it. But I couldn’t write it until Tuesday because we didn’t have the police reports. My co-editor, Casey, was fantastic and went downtown to get them, which earned her a byline credit. This meant, though, that I couldn’t get the pages to the copy editors until Tuesday, and of course the printer was being stupid, and I barely remembered how to use InDesign and PhotoShop. My heart races just thinking about that night. Case in point, Casey and I both stayed until about 2 a.m., when the building had gone completely silent otherwise. But the issue got published, and I have never had to stay that late since. *knock on wood* This is an experience every journalist should have, to understand the kind of resilience it entails. Everything else since then has been a breeze – not perfect, but I know I can handle being a section editor, and I love it.

My life isn’t all work, of course. I went out last weekend to a show at Haymarket, a bar downtown, from a band made up of Luther alumni. SO many students went – it was hot and sweaty and crowded, but I didn’t care. I was proud of myself, actually – I would never have done this as a freshman, although I know many who did, or even younger. While I still value my alone time, I don’t hide in my room like I did as a high schooler. Granted, maybe it’s because I like the general student body at Luther better than that of my high school, but I surprisingly enjoy being social now. I attribute some of that to my Patch internship, which made me go out and meet new people in new towns. It took me too long to open up like this – I wish it had happened earlier in my college career, or even high school. I don’t know what my deal was. But thank God for everyone I’ve met who’s stuck by me. And that was really weird, how I went from talking about General B and the Wiz to soliloquizing about my friends. Ah, well. That’s what nights like that remind you of.

To finish off here, I’ll explain the title of this post, which I usually do at the beginning of them but decided to save. I’ve been thinking a lot about the way I tend to sympathize with people who are struggling. I’m not good at expressing that sympathy, but I do feel it, and I always want to help. Of course I’m glad I have this attribute – it is the source of my morals. But there is a dark side to it. If I let this sympathy go too far and someone got the idea that he or she could take advantage of it, that would be bad news. I’ve certainly gone that direction with it but never gotten stuck in a bad situation. Too many others do, though. So along with my sympathy, I also have a red flag that goes up whenever I sense manipulation. For instance, in my English seminar we read the novel Jane Eyre, one of my favorites. Jane is a self-sufficient woman who falls under the influence of Edward Rochester, who manipulates her because he is in love with her. I sympathized with him because his dad and brother were jerks to him, but I did not want Jane to be with him. So what could I do? I always sympathize with both victim and perpetrator, and I want to know more about what makes people into abusers. I write fiction about it. For now, I guess I just have to guard my heart against people who see sympathy as an opportunity for conquest, not a chance to connect.

Well, back to Henry, I suppose. Happy almost-Halloween (and Macklemore)!

Cheers,

Brita

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