1) When I was a kid, I used to love spending time at libraries. They were a good place to go, where people had to be quiet anyway, where it was easy to go read to get away from the world for a bit. The library was right by where I lived, and being a kid I had a lot of free time on my hands.
I’ve been to Vanier Library all of once. Not only do I live further away from it, but it feels longer to get there and back. With no car to get there and a schedule packed to the gills with unrelenting adult responsibilities, the idea of wasting time to go to a library to get physical books when I can avoid it has become an indulgence I couldn’t possibly imagine to afford.
When I was a kid I didn’t own a computer. No one did. For half my lifetime, computers were for programmers. Now I never take out a book I can find online. If I can’t find a book online, I pick a different book that I can. I call it an ‘availability heuristic’. The one time I went to Vanier Library… was for a mandatory seminar on how to find books on the online library.
I don’t think I could find it unaided to this day.
Pick a book which has been assigned for you to read for one of your classes this semester. It can be a book that only some parts of have been assigned to you, it doesn’t matter. But rather than trying to find a book online which is available in paper format, try to do the opposite. Deliberately choose a book which is already available online for you to read as part of the Concordia online reserves, maybe even that you’ve already read. Then, try to track down where it’s located in Vanier Library. Do you make it part of a trip there that you’re already making for another purpose, or are you making the whole trip for just that purpose? What else do you notice you may be able to get out of being there in person? Look at the books that are to the left and right of the physical book you’re getting, that you wouldn’t have seen online. Do they seem relevant to you, or lead you to think in new directions? How do they compare with the ones before and after the online version?
2) I’m at school. Intellectually I know I’m at school. Yet when I’m standing in front of the staircase leading all the way up to this great big Loyola building, it feels like I’m at church.
When I first graduated from Concordia in spring 2004, I still identified as Christian. At 22, it would be the last year of my life on which this would be the case. For the whole time during which I first went to Concordia, whenever I’d see that building, it’d make me feel like I belonged there, as though it echoed part of the person I used to be.
Now from the vantage point of the person I’ve become, I realize that you can’t go home again. I may be able to go back to school, but I can’t go back to the person I was when I went, nor would I choose to. School even contributed to leading me down this path in the first place. In my mind, I’ve decided to become what I think of as a rational person and, in my mind, I know I’m at school.
Yet somewhere deep down, standing in front of this building, I feel small before God.
Look around the Loyola campus to see if you can even tell which building I’m referring to. A lot of them look like churches, don’t they? It’s not easy to tell which one anyone would be referring to by calling it that. Take a picture of one or two of them that strike you as particularly church-like. Try to find someone who doesn’t go to Concordia or, failing that, at least someone who doesn’t go to Loyola campus. Show them a picture of one of the Loyola buildings that you’ve photographed next to a picture of an actual church. How many of the people who don’t know which is which do you think are going to be able to tell the difference between the school and the church? How do you find that your own psycho-emotional state gets influenced by the religious architecture? How do you read it based on the experience of your own life script?
3) So we’re supposed to write a blog post about ourselves for this class. Interesting. I still identified as straight when I first graduated here, also for the last year I would. After having come back here, it took me almost a whole semester to come out to some of my teachers and classmates, however gay-positive the material and class atmosphere may have been.
As I hesitate as to how personal it’s appropriate to get, I notice that some of the other students are writing about and posting pictures of people with who they’re in heterosexual, monogamous relationships. I start to ask myself, if I hide the same part of my life, as though I’m ashamed of it, even in contradiction with the ostensible learning environment, what kind of message am I really sending? And if I only mention one, how is it fair to the other, equal one?
I didn’t set out for this, and I can’t believe I’m about to, but the more I think about it, the more I can’t seem to justify anything else to myself. If we hide we will always remain invisible. The virtual space of the blog is created to supplement the real space of the classroom.
But when you step back from the blog into the classroom that made it possible, the virtual is made real all over again.
Remember Sophie Calle’s project in which she followed people around in the city to see where they went and try to make sense of what it meant in wider terms. Last semester we were supposed to make a Twitter for my mass communication class. It’s still up – everything we said for the class is still up. We ostensibly put things about ourselves up on the Internet so that people will see them. The Internet is supposed to be public space, accessible to all, yet we think of it as disconnected from RL, so what we put about ourselves on it seems like it should be private *in RL contexts*. Think of some of your classmates whose names you know by now. How much do you think you’d be able to find about what kind of person they’re like if you tried to look up what they’ve chosen to show about themselves online? Do you think it would change how you feel about them if you learned things about them you don’t expect? Do you feel exposed at the thought of being looked up?
4) I’m having a hard time adjusting to balancing my return to school as an adult. Someone, whose positive intentions I will defend to this day, suggests I turn for help to the Concordia counseling service and, not knowing any better, I accept. First they, no doubt from an era in which mobile interface was unknown, tell me I’m ‘very strange’ for calling someone on my portable phone before the session begins.
Having heard that I had a relationship, they begin to talk to me about my girlfriend and, when I tell them I have a boyfriend instead, their reaction rudely incredulous, they ask me ‘are you sure you don’t mean your roommate?’ When I try to describe my problems to them, all they do is stare at me stiffly as though they’re gawking at a freak show without contributing anything, before blaming me for how badly the session is going. At that point I elect to quietly vacate the premises.
As I’m talking to the receptionist about whether or not it’s possible for me to lodge a complaint against the counselor assigned to me and/or to schedule an appointment with a different counselor, three security guards advance into the room. No doubt alarmed by the strange device I’m still waving about that I used earlier to make a ‘phone call’, the counselor decided the best way to respond to criticism of their job was with three armed men.
I can direct you to try to find the location of the counseling center. I can’t in good conscience recommend you go in.
The best way to do that must be not to let school drive you crazy in the first place. Good luck with that! 🙂