I didn’t realize how exhausted I was until I arrived at L’Abri. For the past six months, I’ve been going so hard that I didn’t even notice that I’ve been functioning on empty for weeks. As I neared the end of my summer classes, when I thought about how I wanted to celebrate reaching the halfway point of my master’s degree, the only place I could think of was L’Abri. I’m drawn to this place in times of weariness; when the world is heavy, frustrating, and confusing. Here, in this little refuge overlooking the city of Rochester, I always find peace and rest. This weekend was no exception.
It’s been months since I’ve done any kind of life-update on my blog, so let me catch you up to speed on what’s been happening in Amelia-land. First, let me show you where I’m writing. Imagine yourself with me at this table, a mug of tea in hand, enjoying the golden hour as I ramble on.
As previously mentioned, I just finished my first year of grad school. Adjusting to being both a full-time librarian and full-time graduate student was rough, but each semester has gotten better. The more I learn about my profession, the more I fall in love with it. While some classes are ridiculously boring (writing a fifteen page paper on the role emotions play in online information retrieval is something I hope to never do again), others are illuminating and exciting.
What I’m learning most from grad school is that I was born to be a librarian. The more I learn, the more I realize that this is why I was placed on this planet at this time in history. This profession captures all my core values—my love of books, desire to serve others, dedication to community. My work is my ministry and I strive to cultivate spaces where people feel safe, secure, and accepted. It shows, too. This past week, I had my annual performance review and my supervisor’s comments were so affirming. It’s clear to both my patrons and my bosses that I’m wired for this. How lucky am I, to have found my life’s work at a young age? I can’t believe I get to spend the next 40 years doing this.
Okay, back to grad school. Because I’m a crazy person, I signed up for two classes in the first half of summer term, which coincides with the launch of our Summer Reading Program. Honestly, I expected six credits in six weeks to kill me. That’s the amount I take in a normal fourteen-week semester. That on top of the busiest time of the year at work? Goodbye, social, healthy Amelia. Hello, anxious, hermit Amelia.
Except… it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into and prepared accordingly. I read all 12 titles for my YA lit class before term started. I printed all my readings for all my classes in one session, organizing them into neat piles with checklists attached. It was prep work on par with pre-O.W.L. Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and more than paid off!
Yes, I studied all the time. I studied at work, I studied until going to bed when I got home, I took days off and studied in coffee shops and other libraries. But I also had a life! I went hiking almost every weekend. I made it to church, carved out time for friends, and somehow still got enough sleep. My supervisor told me in my performance review that she was concerned when she heard about my credit load and deeply impressed I managed to pull it off.
Coming to the end of this busy season, I’m realizing that even though I’m intellectually exhausted, I’m doing better than I have in years. Nearly every part of my life feels full of meaning and purpose. If I were a flower, I’d be blooming.
Over the past few months, I’ve realized that the narrative that I have lived for the past five years is no longer true. Since my sophomore year of college, I’ve been in a cycle of loneliness and isolation (minus my time at English L’Abri). In my 2017 year’s end reflection post, I noted that even though I’ve been attending church and have friends, I still felt very alone. I’m learning that this is not the case anymore. I’m not alone. I’m surrounded by people who care about me—family, friends, coworkers, library patrons, pastors, and mentors. When I’m having a rough week, my friends hunt me down at the local coffee shop to make sure I’m doing okay. People text me asking for updates on life, prayer requests, and share their own troubles.
The best part of feeling connected is the joy of loving others in return. What a pleasure it is to reach out, to brighten someone’s day, to listen to their sorrows and struggles and support them.
Over the past six months, I’ve made intentional effort to get involved in church. While I’ve attended services at my current church for almost two years, I have shied away from serving. Groups of new people are intimidating, especially when they all seem to know each other and I’m not sure how I’ll be received. This winter, though, it became very apparent that I needed to be back in spiritual community again. It was scary to put myself out there, but I challenged myself to show up and see what happened. Now, I’m in a biweekly Bible study, teach children’s church once a month, and am making connections. Progress feels slow, but it has definitely been worth it.
I’m looking forward to a couple months without school. My plan is to catch up on all the around-the-house things I’ve been neglecting for months and spend as much time with people as I can. I have a pile of books I hope to read, a road trip to Michigan planned with friends in August, and several letters to write to various pen-pals.
My weekend at L’Abri has been a much-needed break. The thing about L’Abri is that it’s both a place and an ever-expanding family. The more you invest in time at L’Abri, the deeper your sense of belonging and connection becomes. One of the best things about being a frequent visitor is you get to know the other frequent visitors. There was a family here this weekend who I have now crossed paths with three times. A girl who I met on my last visit has moved here, so we grabbed coffee this afternoon and got to know each other better.
I’m here at the end of term, so all the students left today. After getting back from coffee, I had the house entirely to myself. My worker friend was away at a family event and, in her absence, I had an introvert party. I spread out a blanket in the backyard and wrote letters to my pen-pals, caught up on my readings for Bible study, and started some new books. For dinner, I raided leftovers in the fridge. Aside from you, I haven’t talked to anyone in hours and it feels amazing.
Well, friends, this is where I hit “publish”, tuck away my laptop, and watch the sunset with a book.
I’ll leave you with this quote from The Great Gatsby, which I recently reread (and adored):
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer” F. Scott Fitzgerald