I am a list maker.
One list that I have repeatedly made throughout my life is the self-improvement list. It’s gone under many names: the “Life Projects” list, the “Better Jeff” list, the “Seriously, if you want to be better, DO THIS” list. It’s all those things I’d like to do to be a better person: read in the evenings, drink more water, exercise, write regularly, bring in lunch to work, appreciate the little things, etc.
And for the first time I’m actually starting to accomplish some of those things. I’m reading more before bed, playing sports every Tuesday (it’s one hour a week, but it’s one hour more than before!), writing a couple short stories, and eating out less.
“Take a class” has always been on that list and feeling motivated I started to look into classes; particularly I was thinking of registering for a cooking, boxing, or auto mechanics class.
That didn’t happen.
During volunteer orientations, I ask a question: “What do you like to talk about?” So many people struggle to find an answer and eventually give the banal “anything.” For me, it’s always been simple: sex, religion, and pop culture. This has posed some problems as the people who like to talk about sex, aren’t always the people who want to talk about religion, and vice versa. But there’s something about the taboo, yet universal, elements of these topics that I find fascinating.
So when I came across the Graduate Certificate program at the Atlantic School of Theology, where I could spend a couple of hours a week discussing one of my favorite subjects, I was intrigued. The more I read into it, the more it appealed to me. I can transfer all of the courses into a Masters, if I so decide, but in the mean time I have a very manageable work load. I have up to 5 years to take the 10 courses I’d need to graduate. The courses seemed interesting and the tuition is within my budget.
The fact that I’ve had a recent return to religion – though I hate to call it that – was also a motivator. I’ve started going back to Catholic Church on Sunday evenings, after finding a liberal-minded priest, and I still go in the morning to a Baptist Church with one of my friends. I do hesitate to describe myself as a believer though. Not that there’s anything wrong with believing; it just doesn’t describe me. I lack certainty. I lack conviction. And I suspect that I will remain searching for the answers, hoping for a heaven, until my death bed.
I have trouble explaining why I’m going to church, considering I’m effectively an agnostic. And the closest I’ve come to an answer is this: if I were to believe in God it would be for the same reason I check out an attractive person on the street… because I feel intrinsically inclined to do so.
I found out last week that I was accepted into the program and met with my faculty advisor today; she is a nun with a PhD in the New Testament. I’ll be starting in January taking an online foundations course in the Hebrew Bible.
I’m not sure how I feel about going to school to study Theology without being a believer. It makes me feel… phoney, perhaps. I met my old landlord in the hallway yesterday, for example, and in passing told him my big news of the week. And for a moment, I was legitimately concerned he may confuse me for someone actually devout. I started laughing at this concern, however, as I entered my apartment and remembered that it was this same landlord that called me on a couple of occasions after my downstairs neighbor complained that he kept hearing loud sex noises coming from my apartment.
I don’t know if I’ll like the program or if it’s a huge waste of time, but for now it makes me happy and brings me one step closer to being the Jeff I want to be; a bit complicated, maybe a bit confused, but certainly doing what I love to do!