You have to picture 17-year-old Andrea, heading off to college. I weighed 84 pounds (why this is relevant I don't know -just picture a tiny little innocent). I had spent most of my educational life at a convent girls' school in Arkansas. And now I was at a world-class urban university in Chicago. Cognitive dissonance, anyone? I was protected mostly by the sad truth that I was SO in over my head I couldn't even realize how precarious my situation was. When you don't know you can't do something, you just do it.
The day I bought books for my first quarter of classes I almost hyperventilated from excitement. Wandering the corridors of the bookstore, I glimpsed all the things that I could learn. There was Russian literature, calculus, French history, Chinese language and history, art, germ theory, international development, organic chemistry.... There was no end to it. That alone delighted me. People get to know all this stuff? Where should I sign up? I want to learn things forEVER!!!!
I've settled down somewhat, I suppose, but not about that. Even now when I sit with someone who's an expert in a field not my own, and that person explains something about her field elegantly and succinctly, it blows my head apart. How amazing! Now I want to go learn more about that!! I reject entirely the idea that it's dilettantism to want to know lots of things. Sure, I want to be really good at a small set of things. But mostly I want to hang around in a world where ideas float around as part of the everyday environment.
At my launch party in December, a dear friend challenged a bunch of professors to explain why they had earned PhDs. (Truth be told, they had had too much to drink and were acting a tad pompous.) I didn't hear their answers, but I know what mine would be. There's this gorgeous world that hangs together so elegantly. There are God's people in amazing variety and similarity. There are the things people build; there are the principles that hold the whole thing together. I can't stand not knowing this stuff.
And that's why people get PhDs and hang out at universities. Or, at any rate, why I want to again. So I'm going to. That's part of my new news. One piece of my "things that take courage" worked out and I'll be connected to the university again-teaching and learning and, I fervently hope, figuring out how to make things better for poor people around the world.