I am here in Northampton MA. The "vibe" is alot like a pocket of the northwest on the east coast. Earth friendly, crunchy hippie, laid back, free loving living. I feel very at home.
I am starting my third week of class, which puts me into midterms at Smith. We do a year of work ( two semesters) in ten weeks.
My room is working out swimmingly. The house was built in 1716. I am living in the back corner, the rest is a museum. The lady who I am sharing the apartment with is kind, and my room is swell. I have had the place to my self for two of the 3 weekends and have been able to have people over. There is also a kitchen garden I get to pick lettuce, carrots and berries from!!
Intense isn't a long enough or weighty enough word to describe the experience thus far.
There is an Identity to being at Smith, I was completely unaware of. Its feels like a preacher who joins the Vatican, without ever really knowing that much about the Holy Catholic Church or the significance of the Vatican. At Smith there is quite an identity of belonging to something bigger and greater than yourself, encapsulating a lineage of history, a standard of excellence that pays tribute that history of Smithies who have defined the field of social work. I didn't know much about the field, let alone Smith's role or contribution. I feel like I'm wearing the robes, but its not going to take much for the others to see "that one of these things is not like the others".
In areas of social justice, and anti racism, I would never consider my self ignorant, but the more I am learning I just might be.
We have been learning about "white privilege". The fact that I am white, upper class, heterosexual, christian means that I am part of the dominant class, which means I have the privilege to be unaware. If you are male, Christian or agnostic (both are dominant) you are even more "privileged". This would all still be theoretical learning for me and something I may only cognitively process, if I wasn't in Northampton.
Here at Smith being a white, heterosexual, Christan makes me a minority and thus I have experienced a minute sense of what minorities experience. If I was male it would be even a smaller population ( entering class has 13 men and 97 women). At least half of the women are lesbians ( Smith undergraduate is an all female college).
Its totally different to accept and love when someone is the minority, anomaly, but when I am the minority and they are the majority its a whole another boat, " sexual diversity" is a very important topic here, yet I haven't yet formed any solid stance or beliefs on the matter ( that would be a bizarre concept to vocalize here);. It would be like saying I'm not sure what my thoughts are on rain, if its wrong or in God's plan... while everyone around me is doing the rain dance, in the rain forest. And I'm questioning it because.... shhh- I'm christian, talk about feeling the need for a closet to hide in! Most would be resistant to me if they heard I was a Christan because of the stereotypes, or experiences they have had with Christians.
Although I still cringe when I say christian ( instead of follower of Christ, or another progressive term) I feel like I shouldn't hide or change the title to make it more socially acceptable. For better or worse, I belong to the hypocritical, close minded, sometimes racist, broken, hate filled church, ( if we are being honest, at some point I am all of those things too) because they follow, believe and need Christ and I say I do, so despite what a horrible rep Christians have earned, I am one of them ( this belief is a part of a bigger philosophy of a little radical wearing a sandwich board on a soap box in my head, I can share more at a later time).
I am getting it, in a room full of people few have the same ideological beliefs and views of life, I look for people that are the same as me, so I can feel comfortable and know that its ok to be me, there are others like me.I find myself being wary of the large group so many identify with, for I don't know how to interact, and don't want to be offensive.
Since this is barely a taste of what it means to be a minority, I get it; my ability to be oblivious to racism, not have prejudices against me for most of my life, be like most of the people around me, means I am a part of the privileged class. I have little concept of how race impacts others, and its not right to be so oblivious to the suffering of other religions, races and the vast majority of people in the world, specifically the USA, just because I am not one of them. Thank goodness I'm going to the south, where I will continue to be a minority, on so many levels so I will continue to learn this lesson.
So while learning that, trying to make friends, settle into a new town, coming to terms with living in poverty ( another sandwich board wearing radical guy rant, I'm embracing) , I am doing my masters. How amazing is it to have my sole occupation and purpose be to sit around and read about the most fascinating topics to me and be surrounded by others who are also passionate about reading and learning those same things? Its alot, at least 500pgs a week to read and be able to apply to five different classes, and several papers, group project on top of that. Every night there are lectures, documentaries, and activities I am able to attend as well.
Its alot like yoga, you grunt moan and sweat your way through it, sure your body wasn't meant let alone is able to bend or get into those positions. If you continue to practice, breath, focus on balance, and try, the pain and challenge of all that is new, molds you into a stronger person who becomes capable of accomplishing things you weren't even aware were possible for people to do.