I wake and my heart is breaking. It has been two weeks since I have seen my husband. I am low on sleep, having been up til midnight working only to get up before the sun does to be early on campus and continue working. The workload never seems to end, and it only grows in difficulty. The family I live with, they’re weathering their own aches and pains and through this all, the spirit hurts.
The train ride is dull and cool in the air conditioning. We all do our best to exist in a crowd but pretend we’re alone. No one wants to get to know anyone else. We are purposeful strangers, bumping into each other unapologetically because that is just how it is.
My own attention is on more work. The hour-long train ride into the City is when I get my reading done. Is it Weber today? Or Skinner? Or some portion of the IPCC report? I lose track. Yesterday was clouds, today is risk assessment. I’m learning the science behind why some poisons are allowed and others aren’t. It’s supposed to help explain to us how we’ll actually get the world to care about what we’re doing to God’s glorious Earth.
The only thing that distracts me from my reading is when we pass through a rain storm. The rain is startlingly loud against the windows and metal of the train.
From the train, there’s the walk to the subway. A quick glance at the flashing board and I see that my line has just arrived. I run up the stairs and throw myself on the car. I don’t take chances anymore. Last week I was polite and the doors shut themselves on me. Unlike on an elevator, where the doors open and then slowly close again, the subway car doors just keep trying to close on me. It hurts but I’m not going to cry in front of all the New Yorkers who are just staring at me.
No one makes friends on the subway either. I transfer off the express to the local that takes me to campus. My nose is still nearly pressed against my iPad. Maybe if I stare at each word more carefully, I’ll learn it better. I’m still crushed by the 75 I got on my homework last night. That sort of grade has happened before, but…I’m trying so hard this year…
On campus it’s not raining, but the drainage is so bad that I had to walk on a curb separating the walkway from the lawn in order to get to the library with dry feet. I pretend I’m walking on a balance beam, like I’m graceful or something. It’s even less fun than when I’m a girl because instead of getting made fun of for being clumsy should I fall, I’ll land in a puddle and get soaked.
There’s a tour group of high schoolers piling into the library. I say “excuse me” repeatedly and push myself to the head, flashing my ID card. There’s too much work to get done to even pretend to these high schoolers that I enjoy being here.
Sometimes when there are parent-prospective student tour groups, I scoul even more, as though I might discourage them from this misery.
I’ve thought seriously about suicide twice since the semester started…and I’m three weeks through the semester,
The computer lab is pretty empty. For this school’s standards. The library is packed, though. Every day, every hour. I’ve been there early, late, middle of the week, and Sundays, and it’s always full. My reaction is always the same, “What a bunch of nerds…”
The irony of that statement is not lost on me.
I print my paper. It’s one I’m remarkably proud of. As an undergraduate I wrote an essay about positive liberty, but I’ve matured since then. As a freshman undergraduate I thought positive liberty was superior because it allows the individual to rationally make “higher” decisions and project herself towards higher goals. Now I’m disillusioned by liberty in general. It’s overrated and service is underrated.
I turn in the paper and rush to serve.
By noon ten or so of us are gathered on our knees on the cold tiled floor of the campus chapel. I pray fervently that I will stop being selfish. I pray I’ll be forgiven for continually putting myself first. I pray that Jesus will get me through graduate school. Maybe if He helps me I’ll accomplish what I need to do without turning into a monster…or a vegetable…
I cry during the Scripture reading. I cry during the Gospel. I try to hide the fact that I am sobbing during the homily. And I have never been so grateful to receive Communion. For some reason, on this day, when I am filled with such pain, it is like receiving the Bread of Life for the first time. And I feel lifted and reborn with Christ in me afterwards.
The day doesn’t get any better, but in my heart I’m constantly conversing with Jesus, now that I know for sure that He’s right there within me. I can feel how sorry He feels, because He doesn’t like that I should suffer. He’s compassionate.
He suffers with.
I’m so tired that I’m staggering getting onto the train ride home after class. Earlier in the week, it was so bad I almost fell onto the tracks. I’m so tired, but I think of Christ carrying the Cross, and the weight of my sins and I think, “I can get through this.” I just don’t want to sin anymore, because when He felt my suffering, I could feel His, I could feel how much it hurts to carry my sins, and I don’t want to add to that.
Maybe, I think hopefully, maybe I’m improving. I’m not like those other Christians, who have this beautiful moment where all the sudden they are with Christ, and unable to sin anymore and unable to turn away from Him. My relationship with Him has been full of fits of rage. It’s imperfect and disappointing.
But today…today maybe I’m getting better.
Because once more, I cannot stand to wait to receive Him.