Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Era of Responsibility (I promise not to be so philosophical all the time)

watching the inauguration in Astra Hall
celebrating the inauguration at the student bar
some unexpected blue sky at the Stillorgan bus stop

President (!) Obama has promised that America is entering a new age, of responsibility and action. I know this because UCD very thoughtfully hosted a live viewing of the inauguration in the Student Center, which I just barely made it to (thankfully, my professor was American and let us out early to "go watch TV" with a knowing wink). It takes someone with a strong presence to quiet a crowd of hundreds of college students, particularly when said students are rowdy Americans who have been given free beer; I think it says something that from thousands of miles away, Barack Obama was able to hold our attention from the moment he opened his mouth to take the oath (minus a small collective snickering when the camera panned over Bush in the crowd--Sorry George!). I usually feel incredibly awkward when people clap in movie theaters, but everyone was clapping and cheering and on their feet, and I would have joined in had my hands not been shamelessly full of the free food.

I can honestly say that he held us spellbound. I do take him seriously, and I do find that his speech resonates with me; because of the situation that our entire world is in, of course, but also on a more personal level. This is a time of real responsibility for me. In the next year, I suppose that will be more obvious as the end of my college education looms closer, but right now I am also more responsible for myself than I have ever been. So many things are different here, from the ice cubes (which are cultivated not in a tray, but in a plastic, latticed "ice cube bag") to the style of education.

Although yesterday was technically the first day of classes, I didn't have any to attend until today, which definitely turned out to be an adventure. It may have rained again, but I wouldn't know, since I spent the entire day in class (five classes, to be exact). My first class was incredibly disconcerting; it turned out that everyone else had a syllabus but me, and had been made aware of the fact that we were supposed to have read "The Prioress's Tale." Oops. When I politely asked the professor where I could find the syllabus, she told me that she was the wrong person to ask. This experience is just one example of the great divide between UCD, where I am expected to find my own syllabus and take responsibility for my inability to navigate the school's website, and Emory, where seminar professors will give you a bit of slack for being confused.

I'm not saying that either one of these systems is superior, but I do think that this semester will teach me a lot about responsibility. I haven't been given a brand-new kitchen with a full-size refrigerator that will hold all the food I could possibly need; I've been given a basically functional micro-fridge complete with dodgy micro-stove, and I will (/have already) be reduced to eating bread and jam for dinner if I have no food. That kind of thing is small-scale, but that's the general idea. I need to hold myself accountable for the time that I have spent not exploring, because I can't yet take the bus or walk around by myself. I'll give myself a little slack for coming from a small town, but, quite honestly, Barack Obama was entirely right about this responsibility thing (although he probably wasn't referring to me). When you don't take responsibility, things don't change. Goodbye, status quo! Hello, National Museum of Ireland and a brand new president!

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