Archive for March, 2012

March 12, 2012

The Foreign Country of “College”

I went to the nicest college I’ve ever heard about.  It’s not the fanciest, or the most expensive (it’s not the cheapest by a long shot!).  We’re not churning out folks in congress (we do have one, though).  My college isn’t well known, and it doesn’t earn the same amount of immediate “respect” upon mention as, say Harvard or Brown.  But it’s a wonderful place where you learn a lot in and out of class and where the people are genuinely nice.

There aren’t really bullies at College of the Atlantic, not in the traditional sense.  If you lined up all the students, which wouldn’t be that hard since there are only around 300, you probably couldn’t pick out who the most popular ones were, or the ones who led student governance, or the ones who spoke the most in class.  In some ways we’re a school of misfits and outcasts who have a lot of good ideas and found a place where we were told to speak up.  You’re in a class of MAYBE 10 other people; if you don’t make your opinions known it’s noticeable.  So you learn to be heard.  Not necessarily to speak, but to be heard.

I learned to speak up before College of the Atlantic; I was carefully groomed by some well-known LGBTQ organizations on how to speak loudly, proudly, and on topic.  I’ve been through more media trainings that I know what to do with, and I know how to pick three talking points and stick to them.  I know how to not get injured while protesting and I know how to deescalate confrontation if it needs to be deescalated.  I know how to make protest signs that cannot be misconstrued by media on the opposing side.

What College of the Atlantic taught me was to be intentional; that it’s actually okay to “sit one out” when something comes up and you’re just too exhausted for it.  It’s perfectly alright to let a chance at organizing, protesting, or giving a speech pass you by and assume that somebody else will take it up.  College of the Atlantic was homogenous enough that I was able to fit in and, therefore, relax.  I didn’t have to be on eggshells there because I was just another one of the quirks at the school.

There’s this thing about college though; it ends. I graduated in 2010, moved out of town then out of state and suddenly I was back in the real world.  The world where my haircut signifies something other than “owns a pair of clippers” and where I can’t expect to introduce myself as Andrew and not have folks question it.  The world where it wasn’t accepted that folks would engage in debate about an issue while sticking, somewhat, to accepted rules.  The world where you can’t point out privilege to somebody and expect them to know what you mean.  The world where people lock their doors at night.

College of the Atlantic, and I’m assuming lots of places like it, gave you enough comfort to fight for what you truly cared about rather than everything that came across your path.  I took a ton of interesting classes there but that lesson, of fighting for what I felt was truly right rather than what I felt I had to fight for, was far more necessary than many of the classes.  It’s not something you can learn in a weekend retreat or a week long class; it took three years to even start making sense to me, and I’m still sorting stuff out almost two years after graduation.

In short, College of the Atlantic taught me to say, “no” when I needed so that I could say, “yes” to life.

And then I left.

It was almost like having lived in a foreign country during your formative years and then being dropped right back off in your country of origin as soon as you hit your stride.

I’m still struggling a little bit; misspeaking here and there, and having some major flops at times.  I forget that it’s not totally acceptable for me to speak up when I feel something isn’t okay in the same way I have been.  That’s not necessarily a good thing, but there are existing power structures that I get to play in to as I move forward toward ministry.  There are some pretty gross examples of people using their power and privilege over me in ways that I hadn’t experienced before because in the past that stuff would have been called out and stopped immediately.  It’s hard for me to step back and say “there’s a power structure here that’s much bigger than me, and I don’t have the right to change it right now.”

This isn’t better than the system at my school.  This doesn’t make those existing and limiting power structures okay.  And this doesn’t make the people abusing their power and privilege over others right or responsible or okay.  And sometimes I’ll explode a little because somebody is being so monumentally ridiculous in private and the antithesis of who they claim to be in public.

But we will get there.  Heaven knows how we will get there.  But we know within.

Right?  Please tell me that’s right.  Please tell me we will get there.  We’ve gotta.

March 2, 2012

I got in!

I got accepted to Boston University School of Theology for their Master of Divinity Program!

March 1, 2012

General Assembly Headaches

So we’re still about 4 months out from General Assembly and it feels like I’m banging my head into a wall.  Not just for me but for a lot of the young adults I’ve talked to about this.

Warning!  You’ll probably find this post whiny if you’re somebody who has monetary resources at their disposal.

There are so many assumptions made with regards to money it’s ridiculous.  The dorm housing is an amazing value but they change your card, in full, six weeks prior to GA.  I know that a lot of folks my age have family who can and will front the money, or just pay for it all together, or have awesome jobs that allow them to head off and do whatever around the country.  I also know there are folks my age who have “jobs” at GA who are getting everything paid for.  And there are folks going in big groups, with lots of friends, or with folks from their congregations to help reduce costs.

But none of those are me.

I know that you’re all going to scream THERE ARE SCHOLARSHIPS! at me.

Yeah, there are.  And those are not accessible, either.  Scholarships work as reimbursements meaning if you don’t have the money then all the scholarship in the world won’t help – because you still don’t have the money up front to get there, to buy a plane ticket, or to even know if you’ll have enough to get pay for the room you reserved.  Additionally the only YAs who get to go multiple years in a row are the YAs who can afford it.  You cannot get a youth/young adult scholarship two years in a row (or it’s “very unusual”) so you’re pretty much out of luck unless your financial situation changes dramatically from one year to the next.  Or you get to attend when you can get a scholarship while people who have money get to attend every year, making more of the decisions, and having a bigger influence on the direction our association is going.  Even in the YA realm we vote on one of our caucus co-mods each year and if you’re not there you don’t have the chance to be one.  People who get to attend each year have a much higher chance of getting appointed, elected or asked to be on something because they GET to be there.

And really, saving up for GA isn’t an option for me.  I don’t have enough money to get by on a monthly basis as it is.  Putting any into savings for something as extravagant as “something I might enjoy” is just not really an option.  I can’t afford to buy new clothes, much less save up a few hundred bucks for plane tickets and hotel rooms.

The folks who get to attend GA year after year are the people who can afford it.  The people who get to consistently vote each year on things that are important to them are the people who have the money to go each year.  If we were serious about wanting to bring and KEEP more young people in this faith it seems like there would be a way to let them see what is arguably the best that UUism has to offer.

Even if I find a way to attend this year it doesn’t end here.  Because the same issues will come up year after year.  We’re so far behind on financial accessibility.  And every time something comes up it’s like a big slap in the face.