Happy Halloween, everyone! This is my favorite holiday, so naturally, I celebrated by doing the spookiest thing I can think of: registering for my last semester of coursework as an undergraduate. Boo! Later tonight, I’ll probably also go for a walk in Colonial Williamsburg, just to keep the Halloween vibes going and see if I can eavesdrop on any ghost tours. This town is perfect for Halloween because it is so palpably historic, covering the best and worst, brightest and darkest, moments of America. So even though the moon isn’t actually full (more of a waxing crescent, apparently), I’m ready and excited to see what paranormal tomfoolery is out there in Williamsburg tonight.
All spooks aside, I wanted to pass along a story of William & Mary academics coming full circle before I forgot! The summer before my freshman year, I participated in the Monroe book club and chose to receive The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. I do not want to be dramatic or give too much away (because you should go read it right now if you haven’t), but this book opened doors. Because of it, I took Medical Sociology in the fall of my freshman year and have continued to read and write about the historical and social dimensions of medicine ever since, including my current Honors thesis. The book is hard to read, especially since one of my loved ones has epilepsy, but so thoughtful, and outlines a series of topics that I think are critical to study in the future: the balance of doing harm/doing good; translation, literally from one language to another and between jargon and everyday language; patients’ rights to know what treatment entails; conflicts of interest between families and doctors; how to train medical professionals to approach culture when the stakes are literally life or death. In other words, this book introduced a lot of themes that I still think are interesting.
This past week, I was reading for my thesis and got a pleasant surprise: a section on The Spirit Catches You in Illness as Narrative by Ann Jurecic. In this reading, the book offers ways to learn about ethnography, narrative, and pedagogy. “As I see it,” Jurecic goes on to say, “Fadiman’s book encounters knowledge itself—how to learn, how to think in new ways, how to encounter the unknown, how to communicate what one knows to others and how to acknowledge what one does not know” (128). I love that I came across this passage and have the chance to revisit this book while I am giving this thesis my best effort. It’s a nice sign that — even though I have been in so many departments and cared about so many topics — I have been on the right path the whole time! Definitely sentimental, but I think it sums up my favorite parts of going to college: being a student and figuring out what that means to me, twists and turns and all.
Even though today is Halloween and I love everything about it (besides thoughtless costumes that fall back on stereotypes, but that’s another conversation!), then, I’m also thinking that today marks the end of October. That means another full month is behind us, and that I am one month closer to completing the loop that we began at Convocation in 2013: one month closer to coming full circle.