In about 6 hours, I’ll be sitting once again in a college classroom, a dream (no, really -literally) I’ve had occasionally for the last 18 or so years since I left Dordt College, figuring I’d given it a good enough shot, and I’d do better making 13,000 or so working for my dad and learning the craft of being a graphic artist, rather than spending as much per year, hanging around a place with twelve art students and an antiquated typesetter –no computers back in those days in the Dordt art department. So, I left, on my way out, making a suggestion that the reason I was leaving was the lack of a graphics department, hoping that it might light a fire of interest to get one going (after all, they’d already lost one student over it…). I still like to think that in some way, I had a small part in the rather respectable graphics department that Dordt boasts today. I always figured I’d be back somewhere, sometime to finish my degree. I’d hoped it would be Dordt, but after living in (…counting) about five different states, it didn’t look likely. Beside that, once I became a mother, my life’s direction no longer required a college degree, and I wasn’t quite sure what else I really wanted to do or what even mattered after having children after all.
I mentioned a few posts back about my encounter with Prof. Alberda in the hallway that started the wheels turning in the direction of writing –it wasn’t until recently that I realized that I might not be all that well equipped if I really want to give this writing thing a decent go. And so, with all three of my kids back in school, I figured I’d stick my head in the door at Dordt, since it was once again in my backyard, and see what happened. What happened? The door flew open. And suddenly I wasn’t quite so sure I wanted to go in.
I remember being terribly nervous the morning I first arrived at Dordt as a freshman. Nauseated. Couldn’t eat breakfast. Of course, it didn’t help that the hotel in Sibley where we had to spend the night (no Holiday Inn or even Econolodge back in the fall of 1991) had a rather noisy cow that lived in the field behind the motel, and apparently a huge crop of ragweed right outside our window, as I discovered around 3 a.m. when I awoke with a sneezing attack that left me breathless, sneezing a minute and a half straight. Welcome to Northwest Iowa.
My rather astute mother had noticed on the campus visit that “…wow! Sure are a lot of Dutch names here.” I figured out fast that not only was this a new life experience, but a cross-cultural one at that. You see, my maiden name was Anderson, and I grew up in a non-denominational Baptist church. I wasn’t in Kansas (or even Des Moines) any more.
My advisor wisely put me in Theo 101 that first semester, and while at first it was a daunting experience, being among these people who called themselves Christians, but didn’t believe in a rapture and sprinkled babies and used phrases like “serviceable insight” and spoke with rolling eyes about catechism class (“wait –I thought catechism was a Catholic thing…”). Theo 101, taught by a prof who’d come from my fundamentalist background and who taught with an air of cynicism that I learned to appreciate, helped me figure things out. I came to Dordt frustrated over the apparent lack of ability to explain the finer points of the Baptist faith and, specifically, how they came up with all those charts and graphs that supposedly explained the End Times. I read Revelation myself, I told my youth pastor, and the only thing I got out of it was that Christ was returning and we should make an effort to get ready. He nodded in agreement and said, “Yep. That’s about right.” No charts or graphs were brought into the discussion, to my dismay. When I went to Dordt, I had a lot of unanswered questions. It was a wonderful thing to finally be in a place that had people that not only could answer those questions, but seemed excited that someone would ask them at all.
So that, and not an exchange program, as I was known to claim in my Oostburg days when presented with the question, “so how’d you get here?” after a dead-ended game of Dutch bingo, is how I wound up adopted into the faith and the culture here. Now I’m going back not entirely as an insider, but with a whole lot more understanding of where these people are coming from. I’m almost one of them now, with three covenant children myself, having married into a family with some Dutch roots.
Still, I’m just a little nervous. I never did anything half way my first time around at college. I loved every single class I had, even the ones that weren’t related to my chosen field. I’m looking forward to experiencing that again, this time with a lot more life behind me and more confidence in remembering that nothing I learned back then really went void, even if it wasn’t the sort of knowledge I use every day. I’m just thankful that I have a chance to maybe finish what I started. And now, I’m off to fix some breakfast.