I guess it’s time to make an official announcement. I’m leaving for seminary on Sunday, and I’ll be blogging in a new place: You’re Only Young Twice: Adventures of a Gray-Haired Seminarian. It isn’t that my story has ended, but the chapter I explored here is done. Here’s hoping there’s time in my new life (new lives, actually—the seminary life in another city and my regular life back home, which will include a field ed placement in an Episcopal church down the road) still includes room for blogging.
It has a lot to do with CPE. For one thing, my day starts earlier than ever. I leave the house before I’m awake each morning, and by the time I get home I’m exhausted, and I save what little reflective energy I have left for required CPE writing assignments. I’m concerned, also, about whether blogging about CPE would violate patient privacy.
But I wonder if that’s the whole story. It might just be that this blog has run its course, that the journey I have been working out in this space has reached a conclusion–not that I’ve finished traveling, oh no, but the part that comes next feels like an altogether different story.
No longer the church-seeker or the tentative new Episcopalian who was more than a little surprised to look around and find myself here, I’m a postulant in the Episcopal Church, on my way (I hope) toward ordination to the priesthood. I’m an official MDiv student with a class schedule and a field ed placement for the fall, and by the end of this week I expect to have my dorm assignment. I walked away from a good job and am halfway through CPE. I have no illusions about how hard the next two years are going to be, and yet I am filled with joy at the prospect.
So if you’re still reading, you can check back in September to see if the blog resumes.
If not, I promise to leave a forwarding address.
I gird for battle. On my belt I carry my cell phone (checking to make sure it is set to vibrate) and a beeper (checking to make sure it is turned on). Around my neck, my hospital ID and office key.
On my way to the hospital, a big old ground hog lumbers out of the bushes and into the road in front of me. He makes it, unlike the bird that flies right into the front of my car. I don’t hear a thump, but in the rear view mirror I can see an explosion of feathers in my wake. I feel like the Angel of Death. Look out patients, here I come.
It is a religious hospital and I enj0y that, though I can’t help wondering why there has to be so much bad religious art.
CPE is the first time I have ever spent all day every day with people who talk about God as if there really were such a person, where I am no different from anybody else. It feels good, but strange.
I have never been good at making cocktail party conversation. I realize that is one of the things I am learning to do here, as I go from patient and patient. So CPE will be good for something practical, anyway.
Someone said it sounded like a joke: A Catholic, a Jew, a Presbyterian, and an Episcopalian went into a …
No, not a bar.
A Catholic, a Jew, a Presbyterian, and an Episcopalian went into a hospital, and became a CPE chaplain intern team, at least for a summer. And found that in many ways they were more alike than not. And found they could lean on each other when they had to, when this place where they found themselves felt too hard and too strange and too sad and too complex to get through it all alone.
The Jew, a 24-year-old rabbinical student who is less than half the age of the Episcopalian, seems at times like a boy and at other times like a wise old man. The Catholic, who started seminary out of high school but left, only to return much later in life, will still be one of the young guys when he’s finally ordained, and he’s a good guy. The Presbyterian attends the seminary the Episcopalian might have attended if some things had turned out a little differently, in the same university town where she used to work. (No regrets overall, but I like him and would be glad for the opportunity to know him for more than a summer.)
And the Episcopalian? Well, the Episcopalian loves the conversations with patients and families but, being an introvert at heart, experiences them as hard work. Which, combined with a schedule that leaves hardly a minute free for personal concerns and has included much weekend travel and assorted obligations at home, accounts for why there’s been so little blogging lately.
But all is well, and I hope some day to blog again. Hope all is well with my blog friends, too!
My achievements: Was able to navigate by intuition only from a distant conference room to the hospital cafeteria and back again in less than 10 minutes during our short morning break, and I was able to make the CD player work when others couldn’t. So things haven’t changed much: I’m still in the tech support business, and I still have what it takes to find my way to coffee under pressure.
What I learned: The term pipeliner, referring to a student who goes to seminary straight from undergraduate studies. We have three of those.The term second careerist, referring to a seminarian who did something else first. We have several of those, too. Guess that makes me about a fourth careerist, although I might not be the oldest in the group–I have an approximate contemporary who didn’t say his age, so I can’t be sure.
Personal observation: I was very much aware, as I waited for the rest of the group to gather in the lobby at 8 AM, that it was the first time I have been in a hospital that early since the day my dad died last June. Lots of emotion around that. It will settle.
I’ve been off for the past two weeks, and I’ve used the time to travel (five days in Copenhagen) and renew social connections (lunch with my mother and sisters, mid-week Eucharist at the next church over), as well as to set up the spiffy new laptop that will replace the desktop computer that expired without warning just before I left for Europe. All this time it’s felt as if I were on vacation and would soon return to my desk at the University, but tomorrow the truth hits home. Tomorrow I start CPE. Despite the eyeball-rolling I’ve been getting from people who have been through this experience, I’m looking forward to it. I guess I see it as my official starting day, the beginning of a great adventure. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to do some hands-on ministry, as well as the opportunity to reflect in a serious way on who I am and who I might be as a pastoral person.
Bring it on!