I’ve said many times that I realized about six months into parish ministry that what I wanted more than anything else was a syllabus. I wanted someone to tell me what my priorities and goals were, by what date and time things needed to be accomplished, and by what standard I would be evaluated. Save for the year I took off between college and seminary I had been working off of syllabi for most of my life. And being totally on my own, in an office (or at large in the village), with seemingly limitless possibilities and needs, and no clear sense of what was most important in any given moment, that was HARD.
I did my best and suppose I created my own shifting syllabus as the years unfolded, and worked with the session to get a system of evaluation in place for me (more or less). But I retained that yearning for someone to give such structure to me all through my six years of ministry (to a greater or lesser degree).
When I first started my studies here, unlike some of my colleagues I was thrilled to do coursework. It had been so long since I had been enrolled as a student and I began my studies conscious of how much I want and need to learn. And I was tired of setting my own syllabus. Thinking about this stage of my journey, past coursework, when I would write my own exam questions and set my own course of study to prepare for exams, was terrifying.
But (as my last post suggests) I’m ready. I made my own syllabus for the summer and I am loving working it. Something has shifted in me. Am I just that much more mature? Secure?
Several faculty at my university have told me that the exam season was their favorite season in their doctoral programs. They liked working at their own pace, and challenging themselves to stretch to reach big intermediate goals, and bigger distant goals. They liked having the free pass that being a student in exams gives you “Oh, you’d like me to do that? Sorry, I’m prepping for exams.” They liked studying what they wanted to study when they wanted to study it. When they would say this to me in the past few years, I’d think, “I don’t know that that will be my experience.”
But, I think it is.
Thanks be to God.
(Oh, and that wall? I was coming down with a cold. Maybe my plan isn’t to blame!)