economy: a semester in summary

i’ve been writing this post in my head for almost a month, and maybe now isn’t the best time to start actually typing it out since it’s already past midnight.

but it is the right time. and i would probably kick myself for not writing it now – one of those things i know i need to do. even if my bed does look awfully inviting.

i got a new computer today. if you were part of orvieto fall semester 2013 and you’re reading this, you’ll appreciate the significance. i’m forever grateful that i was able to borrow that ancient brick of a macbook but i won’t miss it, ever.

now that i have a new computer, i can finally listen to all the incredible playlists that were compiled on a flash drive during the final weeks of the program. i’m listening to prof doll’s disegno playlist while i’m writing this – in the prescribed order. i’ve been looking through linnet’s phenomenal photographs from rome on facebook and i found the black and white from prof doll of us being silly after our group picture before our dinners with the families when we’d only known each other for ONE WEEK and i almost cried. a friend and i went out to coffee today (i got a regular-size black decaf coffee and it felt HUGE. literally never-ending. so weird.) and compared notes on our respective study-abroad programs. at one point the idea of “family” came up and i couldn’t decide if i felt like the group i spent four months in a foreign country with became a kind of family by the end of our time in italy…and then i saw that picture and i knew. can we go back now?

there are other reasons for the rightness of right now but the one that’s currently pushing the others to the background is the fact that my room smells inexplicably like sharona cake. at 1 am in the morning. go figure.

so here goes.

for an art and humanities-centered program, i encountered the concept of economy in more ways than i ever would have expected to. and i was far more intrigued by these encounters than i ever would have imagined i would be – probably because they didn’t occur within a classroom setting and most of them had very little to do with math.

from almost the very first day i was introduced to the principle of the economy of the line, first in drawing and then in poetry – the value of conciseness and minimalism without sacrificing clarity and weight of conveyance.

i learned about the economy of time from a completely new perspective, taking classes one at a time and only from 9 am to 12 pm every weekday except friday. i read books outside of the required texts for the first semester of my college career and i took long walks and i found space to think where there hadn’t been any before. i was reminded of the beauty of a full 8 hours of sleep and i chose heart-to-hearts over mugs of tea over completing my homework before dinner because even in a setting so conducive to the formation of close community, there’s still room for effort and the rewards for making it are exceedingly greater than the extra ten minutes of sleep i might have gotten if i didn’t have to finish my reading after internet time.

i may have learned a thing or two about the italian economy from rachele, our patient and longsuffering italian professor, and by the end of the semester i was pretty adept at estimating the dollar equivalent of a price given in euros. given the heartbreaking nature of that practice, i can’t say i miss it much.

there’s a lot to be said for economy in expenditure of resources. who knew you could shower every day for four months without using up one bottle of shampoo? or make it through class in a frigid library with an extra pair of socks or a blanket? in the states, it’s easy to manipulate outside circumstances to promote ideal levels of comfort, but what happens when you don’t have direct access to luxuries like a toaster? you make do and you grow in solidarity to the people who are sharing these experiences and suffering through bowl after bowl of cornflakes alongside you.

the economy of word and deed is a concept i don’t think i’ll ever feel like i completely understand, but during the semester i learned so much from observation and practice – when a touch speaks more than words could, when a word should be spoken and when it should be withheld, when sarcasm is appropriate and when it’s best to keep the snarky comment to yourself, when intention demands action, when stillness is necessary, when pushing past exhaustion becomes essential and when rest needs to take precedence.

swaziland taught me how crucial connectivity with the people who are physically present is, and how it’s okay to disconnect from the world removed in order to just be fully where you are, but italy taught me that there’s a place for balancing both and that sweet spot isn’t easy to find. being stateside again is confusing, because you can limit your own cell phone use and internet time, but what if no one else around you does? too many times already i’ve found myself in a room full of people who are all ignoring the individuals they’re with in person in order to engage with other people virtually – and i’ve been guilty of it too. how to disconnect in a world that thrives on technology, on constant interaction on multiple levels?

this is one that occurred to me recently, as it manifested later in the semester, and i’m rather fascinated by it: the economy of effort versus resentment. how much harder and/or time-consuming is it to complete a task not delegated to me than it is to resent the person – known or unknown – who didn’t do it themselves? it took me longer than i’d care to admit to puzzle this one out, but i did finally realize that it really doesn’t take much. and if i notice the shortcomings of others, i’m sure others notice my own and that really leaves me no grounds for disapproval at all. hashtag guilttripped.

after maybe a week of pasta life it became pretty apparent that locanda is quite sparing with protein in the meals they served us. it’s possible that i’ve been overcompensating since coming home – guess there’s an opportunity to learn balance there too.

and on the subject of balance, there’s certainly that of alone time versus quality time, and valuing others enough to remove yourself from them when breathing room becomes crucial without succumbing to seclusion – something that, as an introvert, is hard for me to remember sometimes. but i found that orvieto, while a small town, never felt stifling. and if i ever needed a break from the narrow streets and tall buildings, a brisk walk down the corso to chiesa di san giovenale set everything aright.

so many lessons, so much philosophy, so many new and old ideas to ponder long and arrive at answers to some and more questions for others. balance – that’s certainly a recurring theme. and so is grace. the beauty of grace is that it doesn’t really operate economically. there is no moderation or conservation when it comes to the grace that God extends to His children, and that means there’s no reason why there should be moderation or conservation in the grace that i extend to others. it’s freely given, and i am called to receive it freely and let it go with gratitude and thanksgiving.

economy is a principle that applies to so many more aspects of life than i’d considered before spending four beautiful months in orvieto. there’s beauty in economy, yes. but i think there’s more where economy isn’t the rule, and thriftiness isn’t the objective.

grace. thanks. love. laughter. patience.

and popcorn. there is no such thing as too much popcorn.


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