We're In This Together
If you’ve never played racquetball before, allow this video to introduce you to the game (just imagine a ball flying and bouncing around the court). If you’re an ole’ pro, watch the video anyway – I’ll guarantee that you’ve never seen it played with this equipment.
Stuck. Tired. Nervous. Unsure. Alone…
Between reading, papers, and tests (not to mention the occasional, or not-so-occasional, existential crises), there’s a lot to be nervous and unsure of in div school. During orientation, a third-year student told me that grad school can be a lonely place; “it’s just the nature of the beast,” he said. Not exactly what I needed to hear since I had just been in Winston-Salem for a couple of days and hadn’t yet had the opportunity to really hang out with anyone outside of scheduled functions (which were all an awesome introduction to both my classmates and others at Wake Div). But, I took his words in stride and kept pushing forward in the hopeful expectation that I’d be getting to know other students well during the next few weeks and the city wouldn’t always be such a lonely place.
Things are looking better for me now. But I know that the next three years are going to bring many difficulties. By the end of the first week of classes I had already experienced the roller coaster of emotions that I hear is characteristic of div school. I’ve already felt stuck, tired, and lost.
But I’ve also felt free, full of energy, and confident.
When I practice racquetball, I coach myself with words such as anticipate, plan, and control. You have to anticipate how fast the ball is coming to you, which direction it will take as it bounces around the court, and other related matters. Once you anticipate these things, you must plan accordingly: how are you going to get into position to return that shot? How fast do you need to run? Forehand or backhand? Volley or wait for it to bounce off of the wall? Another aspect of planning is always being prepared, especially for the shots you didn’t think were going to be returned. When you get these basics in your mind, you have to learn to control the ball. Slowly at first; speed is gained with time.
While all of this mental game is happening, you are in a 40 x 20 x 20 rectangular prism of a room with at least one other person, at least two metal racquets, a ball that is travelling generally faster than you drive on the highway, and many echoing onomatopoeias. Whoosh, wham, smack. The squeak of shoes. Always followed by…
After a play.
Waiting for the serve.
Silence really is a beautiful thing. Learn to enjoy the silence. (Especially you extroverts!) But, at the same, time don’t forget to enjoy the noises of the world around you either (alright, introverts, it’s our turn to be called out).
Sanity in life (including div school) requires learning to control the balance. Start slowly. If you can’t control the small shots, then you’ll be totally lost when the ball speeds up. Balance: Studying. Socializing. Worshiping. Meditating. Family. Self-care.
Despite all your practice and good intentions, however, you’re still going to lose control. If you feel like you’re in a black hole, then maybe you need to come out of your study carrel for a while.
But ,if you still feel as if you are spiraling downward or moving nowhere, put one foot in front of the other. Even if you can’t move, just stand there, remembering that each step you take moves you somewhere – even if it’s not the direction you had intended to go. Know and accept that you will stumble and fall backward. But one step at a time, one class at a time, one paper at a time, one deep breath at a time…we are all moving forward together. And there are people around us who will pull us along when we are unable to stand.
Wake Div is full of people who want us to succeed. So when you’re stuck, talk with someone. A peer, a professor, a staff member, someone at the University Counseling Center. Or maybe even a combination of any/all of these people, that’s my plan.
We’re all in this together.
Wake Div: let’s go!
Courtney is a first-year Divinity student who loves her dog and the mountains of West Virginia.