Last week we had the privilege of hosting Dr. Bette Ackerman for dinner and what an evening it was! As we are quickly coming to the end of another hectic semester, the last for Paula, Emily and I, I have been given the opportunity WAY too many times to think about the end of my college career that is rapidly approaching. And though it often seems like it will be such a relief to be rid of homework, papers, intense deadlines and finals, I was reminded during the evening with Dr. Ackerman of many of the other things that aren’t necessarily so bad. Be warned now: this post will likely be a bit on the sappy side.
The meal itself was one of my favorites that we have prepared for a community meal with so many fresh vegetables now that spring has FINALLY sprung, but it was also enjoyable for the conversation. Oh, and the brownies. As Dr. Ackerman reminded us—dessert is never worth skipping! We spent the meal discussing everything from our experiences in the Ruka and at Caritas, our DI projects, our mutual love and appreciation for the one and only Professor McNary-Zak, to Professor Ackerman’s adventures as dean of students, some of the major disconnects between Rhodes, students, faculty and administration and all the growth she’s seen in Memphis during her time here. The night was filled with much laughter and shared stories (Professor Ackerman had actually traveled to the vineyards near where Emily and Allison had studied abroad in Italy), but ultimately concluded with what it means to make the most of our college education.
I suppose it was this final aspect that got me thinking about my life at Rhodes. Not necessarily the education part, though that has been worthwhile too I suppose it its own way. When talking to Dr. Ackerman, I realized all the things that came to mind weren’t papers or projects or even things I’ve done (we all know the laundry list Rhodes kids can rattle off about their resumes). The highlights and meaningful events were all rooted in an experience with people or a specific person. That has included everything from relationships with professors who seemed so big and scary way back when but now some of whom are among the more caring people I know. So many of them are genuinely invested in the interests and success of their students. While, I can’t claim to be close with everyone I’ve ever taken a class from, and yes there are those I’d rather just forget, but there are also those that I consider to be such incredible resources and mentors in some capacity.
Outside of school I think about my teammates and roommates—the two groups of people I likely have had the most hate and love for over the years and how much I have learned from so many of them. Of course there are moments inextricably tied with both of these groups, but outside of some big games, or trips or meals, in both cases it is the collection of all the time I was forced to spend with these people and the inevitably resulted in something ridiculous, as well as my best friends, that has been so meaningful.
Furthermore, there are the relationships with the city of Memphis, Caritas, Onie, Noel and all the kids there. We talked at length with Dr. Ackerman about the city of Memphis, its reputation and all the great things we’ve found here. We also go to pick her brain for some new restaurant ideas etc. But this city was not a place I was excited about as a freshman. I missed my South Carolina comfort zone dearly. And though sometimes I still wish some mountains and beaches were closer, I have become both proud and defensive of the city of Memphis. I think that is a direct result of my living off campus and experiencing so many of the things this city has to offer with my roommates and through the Ruka. Caritas has become a place of comfort that can cheer me up on any stressful day, and I look to Onie and Noel as mentors on a regular basis.
I know this blog post was supposed to be about dinner, so even though I doubt I have done the evening justice, I think I owe a thank you to Dr. Ackerman for making me think beyond just the piles of work that lay ahead over these last few weeks to all the people I’ve met and will get to hang out with during that time instead. The whole “second semester senior year is a breeze” thing may not exactly be true, but its professors like Drs. Ackerman and McNary –Zak who have taught me how to take time to be reflective and reminded to do so in the chaos that is Rhodes. So instead of complaining or groaning when asked about being a senior over these next few weeks, I instead will explain how much I am looking forward to countless hours with my roommates (maybe a few will be studying, most will likely be baking), soccer banquets and dinners, a few plays at Caritas/Brewster and hanging out in the city that has become my second home.