Coda: the 2014 summer internship required to finish my Master of Divinity

To those of you wondering: what is next, where is the next blog, I can tell you:

He is not here, he is transferred indeed, to the blog for his summer internship:

exploratoriussaintmarys.wordpress.com

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Escaping the 06511 zip code

Leaving behind some great friends

Now, do not get me wrong – I had a lot of fun with many of my friends in New Haven, and for those who will be staying there for additional school or folks I met who live in CT outside of New Haven – I will miss them greatly.  They were the most immediate source of aid and comfort in the face of often finding coursework and daily life experiences with the rudeness of New Havenites – and I am deeply thankful for their presence.

Plus, they gave me excuses and dining partners for outings to the various delicious restaurants around the city:

Kelli and I at our beloved Plan B Burger, with our eyes wide shut for the photo!

Kelli and I at our beloved Plan B Burger, with our eyes wide shut for the sole photo I could convince our waiter to take with my expensive DSLR camera (they were nervous about breaking it)!

For the ways in which “technology can really ruin people’s ability to be truly present with one another” can sometimes sound like a valid concern, it will be that self-same technology which allows me to continue to cultivate and enjoy friendships forged over as many as 3 years – and that is a wonderful thing.

No end in sight/packing up the remainder of my crap

So, as mentioned in the previous post, the afternoon after commencement was meant to be packing whirlwind, but it turned into a much-needed 12 hour coma for myself and my visiting family.

It is a damned good thing we did so, too… because even in the face of weeks (in fact more than a year, as I used the space in my car to bring home stuff every time I have gone home since May 2013) of packing and preparation, the amount of crap we had to box, bag, and otherwise defenestrate was astonishing.

IMG_20131210_102846_677

The room prior to being emptied, back in the middle of December

Sure, it is true that I was in the same house in DC for nearly 4 years and had accumulated a lot of stuff there (and I am a camper and a builder/fixer, so much of it was useful gear)… so that all got moved up north in 2011, and then I added 3 New Haven years of crap to it (again, mostly useful stuff… just bulky).

So.

It was a hell of a long day, with our intentions starting at “it should take about 4 hours, we can depart at noon or so and drive part of the way to our respective destinations” and eventually arrived at “well, we just packed for 8.5 hours, Michael is passing out standing up.”

My bedroom of 3 years is now a cold, empty husk... like me :D

My bedroom of 3 years is now a cold, empty husk… like me 😀

I went to Bob’s to pick up the trailer, and again recognized how tired I was, and also how unsafe it is to drive while exhausted… but even less safe to tow a trailer in the darkening evening.

I spoke to Bob and was able to secure a bed in their guest room to sleep for the night, and I cannot overstate how important this was to my (eventual) safe passage south to Maryland.  I slept deeply and departed on Wednesday (rather than Tuesday), and did the trip in one fell swoop.

Crazy to think how many hours I spent in the basement there, and how much fun I had in the space I worked so hard to renovate and make useful.

Crazy to think how many hours I spent in the basement there, and how much fun I had in the space I worked so hard to renovate and make useful.

For more on the arrival and continuing story of my time in Maryland, please see the blog I put together for that experience, at this link.

The setting of New Haven. and (happily) moving away from it

The number of gang shootings and drug violence in my immediate neighborhood (some of which can be seen here) was a serious part of my time in New Haven – something like 21 or 22 instances of shots fired in 3 years, within 5 houses of mine.  This is besides the more “typical” crimes experienced by Yale students – down around the university, muggings are a common experience, and not where I lived (after all, I lived in the poor part of town so no one had money on them to be stolen).

Crime is not a new experience for my living situation, but I will tell you what really wore me down the most – the rudeness and generally aggressive-paired-with-frustration that came forth from many of the people I interacted with in New Haven… particularly while driving.  In a serious way I am thankful for 3 years spent in the area, 2 of which involved a lot of driving – I was always a decent driver, but I am at a place in my life where NYC is “just an annoyance to be avoided” as opposed to the stressful bugbear of past-Mike’s outlook on driving.  Through this crucible I became a better driver, and indeed the crucibles abounded in and around New Haven.

Thankful as I am for all the good and for the bad experiences turned into good lessons learned, I was more than ready to get out by the time the semester ended and I headed south.

My tired parents and brother, helping finalize the packing process

My tired parents and brother, helping finalize the packing process

FAR too many things do I own; the vast majority of them went home to OH for me to deal with at a later time (oh joy)

FAR too many things do I own; the vast majority of them went home to OH for me to deal with at a later time (oh joy)

Final thoughts on school

I have always loved Calvin & Hobbes, and this one comic captures many of my thoughts about the academy in general, after a good 8 years trapped in it:

Cannot agree enough

Cannot agree enough

Critical thinking and carefully examining the problems of our world are vital aspects of any well-lived life – but the number of times I have watched the sinking ship of “a conversation with relevance to the real world” from a lifeboat, as my peers would continue the quibbling that sunk the ship of relevance in the first place… was too many for me to bear.  I was way ready to get out of the academy more than 2 years ago, even – but I stuck it out, and for many reasons (the lessons learned in class, the lessons learned about how not to act or live by observing other people, and most importantly: nearly full coverage of my shoulder surgeries and physical therapy all made this waiting game worth it).  I am deeply thankful for the opportunities I had at Yale, but it simply wasn’t a good fit for me in many ways because, frankly, I dislike obfuscation and prefer action to pontification.

There are a lot more things I could say about this place, but suffice to say: I took the advice of a YDS peer long ago and always assumed good intentions in the words, throughts, and deeds of my Yale Divinity peers – as everyone up there, so far as I could tell, had their hearts genuinely in the right place.  Just, too often did someone offer their politics instead of their religious convictions (if any, a complex issue at YDS as I experienced it) – and just like in church in real life, I didn’t come to hear about a person’s politics, I came to hear a religious message.  I got some of the religious insights and training I sought, often from unexpected sources, but at the end of the experience I am so deeply, truly grateful to be moving back out into the real world and out of the bubble of seminary (which, to be fair, is a reality about most seminaries, being a bubble).

I think, if you go back and read through this blog, you’ll see that I moved over time further and further into projects and camping trips because 1) they were in the real world and away from the bubble; and 2) they were constructive actions, as opposed to the academy’s tendency to deconstruct everything with a nauseating smugness and then offer no solutions whatsoever.  My mind and body were ready to depart, and now departed I am (save for the summer’s internship, which due to my fighting for it, will be physical labor- and project-heavy… as rehabilitation after so long in the academy).

Glad to have gone, but more glad to have finished and now to be gone, it seems.

Thanks for reading the blog!

To those folks who have followed my blogged time in New Haven and at Yale Divinity School, I can quote unto you the message I painted on the basement stairs over 2 years ago:

Thanks indeed, Winchester House

Thanks indeed, Winchester House

Graduation from Yale Divinity School (or rather, walking and a degree IOU)

Family and friends

For the terminal days of my New Haven time in life, my parents and brother were able to make it out from our home in northeast Ohio (my sister was on week 3 of her new job, her first salaried gig after graduating college, so she rightfully stayed home and kept her new job!).  My parents took a few days of work off, and drove down with a U-Haul trailer to whisk away most of my crap to the house, for my later perusal.

My parents and I

My parents and I

My brother actually participated in the Tough Mudder on Sunday in Ohio, at which point he got the mohawk to help raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project that shall be seen below:

Steven with his Tough Mudder haircut, and I

Steven with his Tough Mudder haircut, and I

I owe my parents a lot for the entirety of my life and their support throughout; and my brother for his friendship and then being willing to walk up and down the big hill with the Divinity School, to take photos with my camera (even though he was rather banged up from the Mudder)!  More generally, it was just fantastic to be with my family again after having last been home in March – and so with their arrival Sunday night, it was officially time to Gradumicate.

Marching down town for the Overall Yale Event

Preparing for the march down the hill do the Old Campus

Preparing for the march down the hill do the Old Campus

The first event of the day was the gathering of all of Yale’s various undergrad and grad schools, to the largest quad on Old Campus, to have the deans each approach the president of Yale to get the Yale Corporation’s approval for the graduating process to come.  The Divinity School processed down the hill, led by some sort of elderly hippies with drums and tamborines, and the intended joyous spirit (which caught up some of our peers) also looked really unprofessional and out of place at Yale’s graduation to outsiders:

The hippie folk who played loud drums in front of our procession and further tarnished the reputation of YDS in the eyes of the rest of Yale, yay!

The hippie folk who played loud drums in front of our procession and further tarnished the reputation of YDS in the eyes of the rest of Yale, yay!

Thankfully, I walked with friends like Chris, who share a very suspicious opinion (at best) of the sorts of choices like the above, made by many of our peers from YDS in representing YDS.

Instead, Chris and I are of the church of the Batman:

My good friend, Bruce "Chris P" Wayne

My good friend, Bruce “Chris P” Wayne

We were seated on the quad according to when each school was founded – and given that Yale was founded as a seminary, we had the best seats in the house – both for the actual stage and then for the largest screen in the quad, so we could see details of the Yale-King’s actions:

The Yale-King used his Yale Scepter and officially made the Divinity School graduate.

The Yale-King used his Yale Scepter and officially made the Divinity School graduate.

The best part of the whole experience down town, in my opinion, was when an honorary doctorate was given to Ralph Stanley, a very frail elderly man who was a key player in the development of bluegrass in this country for some 50 years.  As the president reached the end of his brief bio, the School of Music players and their dean began to softly play on a banjo and accompanying music, and the volume got louder for a brief bit of time – and it really seemed to touch Stanley’s heart, and had a similar effect on the assembled crowd.

Our seatmates behind us were school of architecture folk, who had all sorts of angry atheist things to say when there was an invocation, benediction, and three separate hymns sung – but as the school is older than the United States, it is unlikely those traditions will change any time soon.

The Divinity School’s smaller gradumacashun

We hiked our way back up the hill (with some of our peers and indeed the faculty stopping at the ubiquitous food carts to get food prior to the next event), and eventually processed up to the chairs set out in the quad before the Marquand Chapel.

Processing up to the seating in the Sterling Quad, for the final graduation event

Processing up to the seating in the Sterling Quad, for the final graduation event

We were rather blessed to have such lovely weather, albeit slightly windy – but it made a beautiful setting for a much-anticipated end to this chapter of my life.

The good dean, dean'ing on the gorgeous day we had

The good dean, dean’ing on the gorgeous day we had

Eventually, I got to walk my way up those steps and shake hands with the dean, to get my photo taken and have officially walked at Commencement #313 for Yale…

I officially got a thing...

I officially got a thing…

… but, given that my summer of 2014 will be spent doing my internship requirement for the Master of Divinity degree (as the Fall 2013/Spring 2014 internship I had set up ended up falling apart because of my shoulder injury and the accompanying surgeries and healing), I got a slightly different piece of paper in my sleek Yale-branded folder:

... but as you can likely tell, I still have the summer 2014 internship ahead of me, prior to fully graduating.

… but as you can likely tell, I still have the summer 2014 internship ahead of me, prior to fully graduating.

Can you tell which one is mine, above, if you didn’t read the names?? 🙂

A lovely day, all told

As the afternoon deepened, I realized how exhausted I was, and I knew my family was as well from their trip – and we were also all rather hungry!

Matt, myself, and Chris - the three Lutherans who did a Visiting Student Day over 3 years ago, and we made it through the experience only partially scathed!

Matt, myself, and Chris – the three Lutherans who did a Visiting Student Day over 3 years ago, and we made it through the experience only partially scathed!

I said some goodbyes to my closest friends of the past three years, and slowly made my way down to the sidewalk and thus towards the car.

My good friend Emma and I doing a non-acted "this is how we really feel about this place" photo, for posterity.

My good friend Emma and I doing a non-acted “this is how we really feel about this place” photo, for posterity.

I wanted to take my family to Plan B Burger in Milford, a place I have referenced here before, and we went forth and had a delicious meal indeed.  During the course of the meal, the 2 months without a break finally hit me and I realized – the afternoon spent packing my remaining belongings I had planned was simply not viable.

My dad and I, on our way off the quad and towards a celebratory meal

My dad and I, on our way off the quad and towards a celebratory meal

What did the House of Repas do, then?

We had a great meal, and all vacated New Haven for their hotel, wherein we all passed out by 6:45pm and slept through until 7am or so, to prepare us for the (longer than expected, it turned out) day of packing ahead.

My mug shot made the wall, so it is official (even if I have an internship yet to do, to fully finish the degree)

My mug shot made the wall, so it is official (even if I have an internship yet to do, to fully finish the degree)

All told,  then, I am very thankful to have had the opportunities I had and the like, but (as I shall explore in the post after this one), the school and town alike were not especially good fits for me – so graduation day, even if only to get my official-looking Yale Divinity School IOU “degree,” was a happy day indeed – a day to celebrate the good things received and learned over three years, but especially to celebrate the end of one chapter of life and the start of the next!

The final final has been vanquished; preparing the trailer for my caravan to freedom

Getting a great deal

(Editor’s note: this post is going live some 2 weeks after the fact, because the last portion of my time in New Haven was simply too busy for me to compose this before now!)

In February or March, it occurred to me that it would be 1) a lot easier to move; 2) a lot easier to do farmwork in Maryland for my internship; and 3) prepare me for years of utility and capacity ahead.

I knew that Harbor Freight is at times a great place to purchase tools and gear – they claim to offer the best deals on great gear, and while their prices are always very low… the quality of what they sell isn’t especially compelling in some cases.

That said, I did a hell of a lot of research over months, looking into whether or not their trailer kits could be trusted – and what I found was, a resounding yes IF you properly clean and repack with grease the ball bearings in the wheel hubs.  Which I did, very carefully, as per below.

My good friend Syed helped me find out that HF was going to hold a sale on Easter Sunday, for 25% off of one item.  The specific store I went to didn’t have any in stock, they gave me a voucher to get the sales price after the day once they were back in stock… and I ended up getting the kit from the New Haven store.

My good friend Bob finalizing bolt placement through the deck

My good friend Bob finalizing bolt placement through the deck

 

Test fitting one of the side walls to the vertical upright beams

Test fitting one of the side walls to the vertical upright beams

Building the trailer

My good friend Bob is a retired Marine and retired police officer, who is working security for Yale Law School – and over the 16 odd months I did IT there, I often helped Bob with various IT problems which arose.  He had told me about the garage he had, where he likes to fix cars – and when I mentioned the trailer, Bob jumped at the chance to help me out with a project before I departed New Haven!  Thus, once I finished the last final of my academic career (thank Jesus it is over), I dove into working as many hours at the Law School as I could, while also working on the trailer after shifts ended.

Bob and his brother Eddy and I, hanging out on a Saturday in the car shop they have used for more than 30 years

Bob and his brother Eddy and I, hanging out on a Saturday in the car shop they have used for more than 30 years

Over several nights and weekends, Bob and I (and his visiting older brother Eddy, at times) worked to put together the metal frame, to prepare for the decking and side walls.  I decided to do 2 foot tall walls, making use of the slots in the steel frame as to ensure they are stable when in place but also make their removal a non-issue.  We used pressure treated lumber for the deck and uprights, to make sure they last as long as possible – and then I painted the side panel plywood prior to assembly.

I found a special set of interlocking corner hardware for trailers, and then a set of super heavy duty Tacoma pickup truck bed D-rings, as the other modifications I did on the trailer.  The corner hardware got put onto the side walls and they do an excellent job of holding the walls very steadily in place, even at speed.  The D-rings were drilled into the outside edges of the frame, as to allow for tie-down points when I have the walls removed and am transporting heavier or larger items such as 4×8 plywood (as opposed to the lighter duty door handles I put onto the deck for internal tie-down points).

Ready to go!

After a great deal of work, the trailer was ready to go – and my best intentions were to take it home to New Haven from Bob’s garage, load it completely for the Maryland trip, and then return it to Bob’s locking garage for safe storage until the moment of my departure south.  I did indeed do that, and in retrospect am VERY glad I did so!

Other than electrical, the trailer was ready to go on schedule (I ended up finishing a few days later)

Other than electrical, the trailer was ready to go on schedule (I ended up finishing a few days later)