Hey buds, thanks for sticking around for the 4th of the 5 Days of Ruka. We’re all honored that y’all are taking any time at all to read our reflections, and I personally hope that my contribution lives up to the standards the other ladies have already set.
Since we’re taking this time to look back on our first half of the fellowship, I’m just going to start of by saying that I didn’t contribute to last semester like I could and should have. To be honest, I’m a little disappointed in me. The thing is, I even made a promise to myself before the semester started, while I was still abroad, that I would really live this last year in Memphis to its fullest. I wanted to drink in this university and this city and this fellowship and these friends like I just had in France, where everything was new and exciting. I told myself I could transfer that touristic energy from an 8-month adventure to this familiar environment so as to leave nothing behind at graduation. You know what, though? I didn’t. Or at least I haven’t yet.
With the Ruka in particular, I let it become just another academic obligation far too quickly. I let buddy time become an hour-long commitment I checked off at the end of the week. I often let stress make me surly. I felt the occasional twinge of resentment at the thought of an upcoming Monday-night dinner meeting I myself had forgotten about, or at the suggestion of an additional group outing that I hadn’t planned for, even if my schedule could handle it. Now don’t get me wrong, I have loved this last semester, and I’m certainly looking forward to what the next brings. These four ladies have been a delight to live and love and work with, our dinners with Rhodes faculty and leaders have been enriching and delicious, our community gatherings have been fun and therapeutic, and obviously our time together has been constructive and affirming. I just have not been my best, and I know I can do better.
It’s funny, Ozakh talked about her problems with taking care of others instead of herself, whereas I think I have more of a problem with forgetting about others, particularly in the face of stress and weariness. Who knows, maybe we’ll meet in the middle next semester. What this means for me specifically is revisiting that bright-eyed energy I had before the academic year began. The issue is that “apply yourself” or “stay invested” are wonderful goals, but vague ones. If you know me, you know that I like things concrete, scheduled, laid out. Gotta make attainable short-term goals that lead to a definite end point. I mean, look at me, I actually asked for the role of treasurer in this fellowship; it’s disgusting. Plus, the fellowship itself is a rather intangible endeavor where we’re dedicated to loving Memphis, Rhodes, the world, and each other, so how do you quantify that? There are no grades, no benchmark, no end-of-the-year presentation. So I’ve got to strike a balance here between giving myself practical points of improvement for the next few months while not letting it get so practical that the Ruka is a mental checklist and a series of colored blocks on my Google calendar. This commitment is, after all, malleable and up to interpretation.
So what’s my plan? Well JOKE’S ON YOU friends because I’m not actually all that sure yet. You’ve made it this far down my post, and here we are with no happy resolution, makin’ ya feel like dupe, but if I had an easy answer for this, it wouldn’t be a recurring problem in my life. Sorry about it, but here’s what I do know: I have four wonderful, strong, talented women on this team with me, and we’ll all be together again in a couple weeks. Contrary to what selfish, surly, stressed-out Julia may convince herself of, I am not the Ruka–we are. And we have months ahead of us to figure out how to finish strong, especially with the knowledge and experience of last semester–what worked and what didn’t, what we do and do not feel passionate about, etc. We’ll make a new plan together, one that works with our strengths and expectations as a group. After all, it’s these ladies, my four fellow housemates, who inspire me to reapply my energy next semester, to barrel back into this world that I’m blessed to be a part of. And if you’re like me, and you like to organize your life in checklists on your phone and on blocks on a calendar, don’t forget to stop sometimes, even in the face of stress and exhaustion, to think about what those blocks are for, or what that checklist is aiming to accomplish. You certainly don’t have to get rid of these tools (heaven forbid), but don’t let them become you, as I confess I often do. The lists’ll get crossed off, the calendar will turn to a new month, but these friends and fellowship will stick around longer, at least until one fine graduation day. So until then, I dedicate myself to rewiring my academic burnout for the benefit of the Ruka, the girls, and all that we do, as intangible and as personal as that may always be.