The Gordon Experience Part I: Disorientation / by Lily Greenberg

Over the past few years, as I've stumbled (and continue to stumble) through my writerly development, trying on voices and genres and imitations, I've made a conscious effort to filter out Gordon College from my content. I do not wish to be associated with a conservative institution that discriminates against its LGBT+ community, and utilizes Christian jargon to perpetuate fear and silence. Identifying publicly as a Gordon student often feels like unnecessary baggage that I will always have to qualify.

And yet, I am too permeable, too affected, for such disassociation. If I entered the campus scene as an 18-year-old glass of lukewarm water, the events that have transpired at Gordon College in the three years since have been flames beneath me, pushing me to boil, rendering a transformation of state--forced evaporation. To weed out Gordon College from my identity would erase the very roots of why I think and speak and react the way that I do. You can't have buds without roots, I guess. 

Pen to paper, I begin. But processing is anything but linear. I sputter out statements like a stalled engine, maybe roll a few feet forward, and then screech to a halt. More often than not, I end up spinning in circles, revisiting the same moments that felt too full to unpack the first time, coaxing out one more detail. Digging into memory feels like revisiting trauma. Eventually, I yield. That vein of energy between my fingertips and memories begins to unclog, and the words pour forth, flooding the page.

Here is the first wave of a long-awaited deluge, my attempt to sort through these past three years at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts.

Perhaps the best place to start is the beginning:

Part I: Disorientation

Gordon College is the only Christian school I've attended. This isn't to say that I was unacquainted with the culture upon entering--I grew up in the bible belt of the South. Franklin, Tennessee is pervasively Christian, with churches on every corner. To some extent, I knew what was coming. 

Bobbing in and around friend circles, youth groups, and sports teams throughout high school, I never really felt a sense of belonging. I vacillated between too much and not enough--too intense and moody and liberal, not charming or skinny or easy-to-be-around enough. The town of Franklin has cemented in my mind as a mold where I never have and still don't quite fit.

Looking for colleges, I knew two things: I wanted a small, liberal arts school, and I wanted to get the hell out of Franklin. Though I grew up attending a Christian camp in the Texas Hill Country, I wanted nothing to do with any Christian institution. That sounded stuffy and stagnant, nothing like the free-spirited faith I cultivated at camp. I wanted space to question and doubt and wrestle. I wanted to build my own framework rather than have one enforced.

So, 8 out of the 9 schools I applied to were just that--liberal arts colleges far from home. However, one Christian school made it into the bunch by request of my mother. Enter Gordon College, the inter-denominational school just north of Boston, one of the most liberal cities in America. Gordon felt like a compromise between my mom and me, at a time when we needed connection more than anything. I figured because Gordon didn't have a denominational label, that would render open-mindedness and inclusion. After all, one of Gordon's slogans is "Freedom in the Framework of Faith." This sounded like wet soil, like wiggle room, like space to breathe.

Upon my acceptance to Gordon, I also received an honors scholarship that nearly cut the school’s price tag in half. I went for a visit, was drawn to New England's coastal strangeness, and committed to Gordon shortly thereafter. My mother was thrilled. Gordon became our topic of cheerful conversation, where we could enter without argument. 

Nothing feels normal to a first year student. It is highly unlikely that a freshman would notice that she is stepping into a turmoiled community. This is her first exposure. She is too busy floundering through social circles, adapting to course loads, eating meals with floormates, joining worship teams--all while trying to stay afloat. Eyes shining with determination to make a name for herself, she will not recognize change. She does not know how.