Thursday, November 17, 2011

Katie Harrell: Shimer in 158 Words

As Shimer's Weekend College program gears up for a new semester, these recollections of first days at Shimer may be timely.

Our class was gigantic. A swarm of freshmen bigger than the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th year student bodies combined.

We were promptly reminded how small we were. You, wisened Shimerians, were blunt and openly curious.

You asked us: How are you? And we said: Good! Happy to be here. And you said: Why?

Did we have to bare our souls so soon? Couldn't that wait until at least the second semester?

We didn't know what we were made of. We thought we did. We had already fought poverty, privilege, ostracism, and belonging to get here. But we knew nothing.

Sitting in Nat Sci, enjoying an I-It relationship with the prism in my palm, I flashed rainbows on your foreheads. We are not this. We are not that. Yet here we are anyway.

We read and talked and loved ourselves into the strangest predicaments. We learned to embrace the Nothing. We know Nothing well.

How are you?

Katie Harrell is a 2000 graduate of Shimer College. The above essay was the winning entry in a contest held earlier this year to describe the Shimer experience in exactly 158 words, in honor of the school's 158th anniversary on May 11, 2011. Additional essays from this contest will be published in the coming weeks and months.

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