The Dream: Fall semester in the state of Iowa

Do you feel that? Yeah, it just got kind of chilly outside, didn’t it? The leaves are really starting to crunch under your feet and the sound of the wind has taken on that not-too-friendly-but-all-too-familiar howl as it blows up against whatever massive neo-communist library or Gaudy Surrealist campus center you’re hiding in for warmth. Whether it’s from within the creaky wood frame of your pizza crust and potato chip crumb covered apartment or the tepid moist air of your poster-décor campus dorm room, there is no denying the physical reality and statistical inevitability that summer is gone. God damn it.

Okay now, let’s just chill for a second. It’s not like everything has gone bananas, right? You probably survived the first big test or paper of that Math or Foreign Language class your advisor advised you to “get out of the way” during your first semester. Check one. Or you 12 credit semester seniors might still be standing with both your boots on as you stare down the syllabus at the series of Seminar paper and presentation deadlines. Yeah man, that’s the ticket. Check two. And all those kiddies with other stuff on their plates—major declaration, study abroad applications, Fulbrights, Watsons, etc.—there’s hope for you yet too. This does not mean I’mma drop some “when the going gets tough…” kind of deal from the 1994 Sean Austin classic, Rudy. No, I won’t, even though that movie and its autumnal iconography are straight dope. What I’m getting at is a simple yet normative proposal that we all take a deep breath, grab a hoodie and start appreciating the sensory, emotional and intellectual changes that our semester is determinately going to bring us.

Check it. Fall in Grinnell is beautiful. Try listening when the trees bend to the will of the wind or when leaf piles get rearranged moment by moment by a seemingly innocuous tuft of air. Smell the ground and the atmosphere as you walk to and from class, noticing the different stages of the potent-yet-ever-important Nitrogen cycle (Thank you, David Campbell and ENV-145). Or even yet, get together with some cronies and get on out to Jacob R. Krumm. That place is dynamite for anyone with an even remote case of Scopophilia and the slightest affinity for the visual palate of autumn. Mostly I want to suggest that while the days for sweet cut-offs and sleeveless t-shirts may be quickly coming to a close, and while that does suck, we need not worry too much about the seasonal future. Winter is a ways away, and anyway, I know you’re all pretty excited to start showing off that new Cosby sweater purchase you made over the summer. Pff. Typical.

As for the academic turn that the changing of seasons seems to so appropriately demarcate, I advocate another, perhaps proverbial, deep breath for what awaits us all this semester. Like Van Morrison’s under-appreciated 1974 song title suggests, “You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River”—meaning that, because the ‘punches’ of papers and the ‘river’ of revisions will inevitably come-a-knockin’, we all just got to roll and take it as it comes. Besides, now is the time to remember why we’re all nerds—when your classes have gotten out of introducing terminology and you’re getting your hands dirty with the exciting world of Gene Sequencing, the ostensibly important evolution from Freud’s Unconscious to Lacan’s Symbolic Order, or maybe you’ve even started narrowing down a paper topic for “What NGO is Right for You.” But of course, such a long term endeavor brings with it its own dynamic exegesis of a corresponding emotional roller-coaster of highs and lows. As for now, we’ve already got plenty on the table. So just relax and appreciate, laugh about, take a whiff of, or even instrumentally overcome the beauty and burdens that October will ultimately be sending our way. Maybe then we’ll be livin’ the dream.

Not satisfied? Deal with it.