Well folks, it’s Thursday of the very last week of the first semester of grad school. As could be expected, I’ve been thinking a lot about how this past semester has gone, how it met or did not meet my expectations, and what I have gained during my time here thus far.
Might as well get it all down on “paper,” right?
So here goes.
The first thing that has become very apparent during my first semester is that Naropa is not a shining beacon of beauty, love, and unity for all beings. Sure there’s more emotional connection and acceptance going around than I would expect to find in just about any other program, but it’s not an all-inclusive buffet of positive vibes. Naropa has its shadow issues too. These show up in many forms, but the biggest one that I have noticed is the way Naropa handles anger. In Duey Freeman’s Human Growth and Development class, he says that when we are young, we learn spoken, unspoken, and secret rules from our parents that influence the way we live. Well, Naropa is a young school, and it’s got its rules too. In regards to the anger issue, Naropa’s spoken rule is that “anger is an important and useful emotion, as long as you don’t let it control you.” The unspoken rule is that “anger is something you should work on yourself; don’t expect others to process it for you.” The secret rule is that “it’s not okay to be angry as a student at Naropa university.” That’s not to say that you’ll get in trouble for being angry, but people here don’t always know how to handle it, and they’d rather not see it unless you can keep yourself calm and collected.
Needless to say, this has caused problems. It will probably continue to do so. But every school has something, so I hardly think it’s fair to judge it based on this issue alone. Naropa has a lot of great qualities as well, and it would be a mistake to ignore them.
The second thing that’s become apparent to me is that the faculty here have a subtle, but strong undercurrent of interpersonal and institutional politics. Some instructors don’t like it when you disagree with them. Some don’t agree with other instructors. Some think that some other instructors’ courses aren’t necessary. Once in a while, something you say will really trigger one of the instructors, and you’ll be left wondering why the thing you said was really such a big deal. Grad school isn’t a game, but you do have to play to the politics of the school from time to time.
Bear in mind, I don’t think this is unusual for any type of institution. All schools have interpersonal politics, as do companies, families, social groups, etc. It’s impossible to get away from them. But it’s important to be aware of them too. Sticking your head in the sand and ignoring this important aspect of the Naropa dynamic can lead to problems. Of course, I may have encountered this more than most, as I have trouble keeping my mouth shut in class. I’m sure people experience this to varying degrees. But it is a real aspect of attending school here, and worth keeping in the back of your mind. And, having said that, the positive sides of the Naropa faculty far exceed the negative. The instructors here are truly amazing people, and considering that they work for almost no pay, you know they’re teaching you because they want to be. I am unceasingly amazed at the incredible knowledge and competence of Naropa’s teachers, and feel extremely grateful for having the chance to learn from them.
The third thing that I’ve noticed is that Naropa’s TCP students are incredibly mature. Really. I feel like a little kid in some of these classes. I am, admittedly, on the low end of the age spectrum here, but it’s worth noting the incredible intellect, savvy, and skill that people bring to this program. And for me, this fact makes every class an absolute delight.
Finally, my fourth observation is that Naropa has got something. I know I’ve said this before, but this semester has really reaffirmed it for me. There is an almost tangible X-factor here that changes you in some way. Whatever it is, you can’t go through a semester of this without feeling its impact. And the anger-related issues, politics, etc. are well worth it to have the privilege and the pleasure to attend this school.
So there it is–my first semester is over, and now all that’s left is to wait and see what the next one will bring. However, I’m sure my experience is not universal. How has your semester gone? Feel free to comment on your own experiences during these last four months!