Last Sunday, we had our Ruka Spring Retreat at Rhodes with bmz. It was a great time for reflection, sugar consumption, and goal setting for our second and last semester living together in community (cue tears).
After catching up about everyone’s winter break, bmz led us in a reflection exercise. She asked us to create a timeline of our life together thus far. We were left to decide where to begin and what moments qualify as significant enough to include. We chose moments like get-to-know-you coffee dates last Spring (featuring the looming question of who would end up sharing a room- shoutout to Eilidh and Catherine), times we cooked together, meetings we spent arguing over how much money to spend on coffee at the Farmers Market, hugs after successful community dinners, individual successes and challenges we supported each other through (and times we failed to), and much, much more. It was one long, happy timeline. Common themes emerged. Prominent in our collective memory are the times the five of us spent together, even if we spent that time sitting around the nook table absorbed in homework. This semester, I want to build on this togetherness by investing more time in our community, in “truly caring about people and sacrificing for them, over and over, in a myriad of petty little unsexy ways, every day.” Those moments are what I will carry with me after our year together ends.
This quote brings me to another important part of the retreat and my musings on this semester- the readings. We each led a discussion on a text relevant to our interests and backgrounds. I was particularly drawn to Hayley’s reading of David Foster Wallace’s “This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occassion, about Living a Compassionate Life,” his 2005 graduation speech at Kenyon College. True to form, I couldn’t help but jump into this text as soon as we began our discussion. I was just too excited to keep my mouth shut. In “This Is Water,” DFW reflects on the value of a liberal arts education. As a second semester senior contemplating her immediate and longterm postgraduate plans, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my 3.5 years at Rhodes. DFW’s conclusion that a liberal arts education teaches you the art of awareness resonates with me. My mom has always said, “You create your own reality. What you focus on expands.” As a kid, I rolled my eyes at least a time or two when she reminded me, but my experiences in college have only validated her aphorism. Particularly my time in the Ruka. Our year-long project of living intentionally with one another requires us make hundreds of small, conscious decisions every day that reaffirm our commitment to one another, the environment, and our communities. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. Sometimes the compost bin smells weird and the house is freezing. But when I consciously bring my awareness to the beauty and importance of what we are doing, and how special each one of these women are, none of the discomfort matters. As DFW reminds us (soon-to-be) college graduates, the power lies in choosing to focus on important, life-enriching things instead of petty frustrations. “The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness,” he tells us. So thank you, David Foster Wallace. And thank you, Ruka. Challenge accepted.