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I would like to hear other voices besides my own on this blog. If you'd like to write about your TLP experiences here, e-mail them to me and I'll put them up.
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Thursday, February 4, 2010

How Geoffrey Chaucer Changed My Life

As you know, I've spilled a little bit of ink giving my own relationship between academia and my home culture the talking cure, especially because I've not had a lot of luck integrating the two in any meaningful way.  A lot of times I feel like I'm trying to walk down the top of a split-rail fence without falling into a pond on one side or concrete on the other.  In particular, it's been hard making my family understand why on earth I'm still in college twelve years after high school and training to be a medievalist of all things.  I really have a hard time trying to make my life in academia useful and relevant to theirs. 

Well, the other day I got a phone call from my brother "Coyote" during dinner.  He lives in Laramie and, after about a ten year hiatus, he's finally going back to school at the University of Wyoming. He's had a few lumps and bruises, but at this point, he's doing pretty darn well.  He and I have always had a fraught relationship, but in the last five years or so it has settled out to a pleasant formula: three parts sarcasm and one part vinegar.  But, you need to understand: my brother never calls anybody.  In fact, Coyote's name pops up in my cell phone as "The Invisible Man."  If he's calling me, it's because he wants something. 

So, I pick up the phone and tell him, "Well, hi, Coyote, what's up?" and he says, "Hey, Jackrabbit, so I'm writing this paper on Chaucer's Clerk in The Canterbury Tales, and it was due forty-five minutes ago, and I'm completely stuck and can't get this paper finished.  What do I do?!"  So, I long-distance coached him over the phone for almost an hour about his paper and helped him get his ideas straight.  As it turns out, he wasn't stuck as he thinks he was; he had some awesome observations, but he needed somebody to tell him he was on the right track and fill in a little cultural context he hadn't gotten in class yet.

Coyote and I had the longest conversation we have probably had about anything since the road trip after my grandmother died last March, and about medieval society and biblical exegesis in "The Clerk's Tale" of all things. He was genuinely interested; and I was genuinely happy to help him out. 
When we were done, he said, "Okay, little sister, I better hang up and write this thing finally.  Thanks for your help."
"No problem, Coyote," I said.  "Anytime."  There was a brief pause on the other end of the phone.
"I always knew I'd figure out something you were good for eventually," he wisecracked.  "Catch you later."   And then he hung up.  
I was absolutely flying with joy for the rest of the night.

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