Last week was my first week back for training, and this week was my first week back for students and classes. I've gotten over my fear that I'll fail as a literature teacher, I've nerdishly loved the return of structure, and my people-loving self has cherished the return of frequent interpersonal contact.
I've also been reading for comps. Currently, I'm reading DH Lawrence's Sons and Lovers. I wasn't going into it planning to hate it, but I was approaching it as "A book I'm reading because I have to." My goodness, though. This book is beautiful. Sure, it's Lawrence and therefore a little heavy-handed with the sexual undertones and metaphors. But it's also one of the most beautiful portraitures of family life I've ever read. In fact, no book has made me cry this early into it since Little Women made me cry halfway through. And that was 15 years ago. Sons and Lovers has it beat by making me cry in the first quarter of the novel . . . and that just because an oldest son comes home to his dysfunctional family and "Everyone [is] mad with happiness." And then, one of my favorite sentences, "Home was home, and they loved it with a passion of love, whatever the suffering had been."
Okay, so those have been happy highlights of my week. I really am so glad to be back. Today, though, I found out through facebook that someone I went to college with passed away this weekend. At first my logical mind went, "Oh no! I feel so badly for her family and husband! I wasn't very close, but it makes me very sad," and then was ready to go on. But the emotional part of me won over and I sat in my office and cried for probably half an hour. (These are the moments you're glad you mostly have an office to yourself!) I think that part of it was that we had a lot of friends in common and even talked on a semi-regular basis, so it was strange having someone who had been a constant part of your life for three years be gone. Another part of it is that I over-empathize, so just thinking about her husband and remembering how in love they were broke my heart. And another part of it was the more selfish, scared "people in their 20s aren't suppose to die" reaction. And a last part of it was a "feeling guilty because I could have been closer to her and chose not to" reaction.
But most of it, I think, is because I over-empathize. I just slip into people's situations and imagine myself in them so vividly that I tend to get very upset no matter who they are, and I get even more upset if people's situations at all relate to me and my life. After today, though, I think that I decided that empathizing is a good thing as long as it helps me love other people, serve them, and pray for them more fervently. It's just not a good thing if I let it consume me, depress me, or make me more focused on myself than God and other people.
So as not to end this post on a sad note, though, I will share something exciting . . . I contacted the US office of the Kenyan university to ask about teaching there next summer! Who knows what the response will be, but I'm praying that the answer is, "yes, come!" and I can start planning and support-raising in the next few months. I'm a little nervous about planning to be out of the country for 6+ weeks and having to raise a couple thousand dollars, but I'm mostly really excited that an actual missions trip may be in my near future! It's been very hard wanting to do overseas missions and feeling like God has been saying "wait" the past seven years. (And actually saying "no" by canceling missions trips post-tornado.) But it is all very worth it to follow him where he intends me to go . . . and I think that might be Africa this next summer!