Nothing Like a Library

Haskell Free Library, which straddles the border between the U.S. and Canada.

I can’t think of a place with more possible functions than a library. Throughout my life, it’s been a perfect location for hide-and-seek, alone time, contemplation on small or large scales, and entering worlds that could make me forget my sense of time, place–even selfhood. There has always been an inherent magic to exploring the labyrinth of towering shelves with the smell of old books in the air and new knowledge in every nook and cranny.

When applying to college, I began feeling overwhelmed and boxed in by the pressure to stand out. One evening, I drove to the public library so that I could remember how much bigger the world was and get lost in other stories. I returned home in an entirely new headspace, inspired to take a slightly different approach to my college essay. Unsurprisingly, it was the draft I ended up submitting.

When I heard this podcast episode (entitled, “The Room of Requirement”) on This American Life, it instantly resonated with me. But the magic of the libraries mentioned in the podcast is distinct from the magic I’m used to.

Imagine a library that allows anyone and everyone to drop off unpublished manuscripts. Or one that can reunite families separated by the travel ban. Though they might sound too good to be true, the podcast reveals that these places are, in fact, very real.

Nearly everyone has a unique story connected to libraries. It’s the kind of conversation topic that can lead down entirely unforeseen paths, but it’s worth inquiring. You never know what you might discover.

The Last Shakers

Dinners at Driscoll with the Cross Country team can often lead to some deep thoughts; last night our topic was the Shakers. A Christian sect originating in 18th century Maine, the Shakers were known for their strict chastity, simple living, hand-made products, great theme song, and extreme physical reactions to the presence of the Holy Spirit (from which their name comes). With the help of Wikipedia, we learned a lot about the sect, from their “Three C’s” of celibacy, communal living, and confession to their belief in a dual male-female God. I found all of this fascinating, and I’ll probably look into the group some more, but the most interesting discovery for us was the present state of the Shakers: as of now, there are two living Shakers, Brother Arnold Hadd and Sister June Carpenter.

These two Shakers are the only remaining members of a sect that once boasted a membership of thousands. Both are also getting up there in years, meaning that there is a very real possibility that the Shakers could go extinct in the near future. Additionally, since refraining from engaging in sex (or even passing the opposite sex on the stairs) is a core tenet of their religion, Shakers cannot be born, only converted. And as you might imagine, there aren’t too many people in this day and age who are willing to give up their present and future lives to join such a radical, strict community. However, I was shocked to find out that the Shakers receive an average of two applications a week! I thought, “Why aren’t they accepting any of them? They could save their religion!” And it’s true that they do accept some people, who quickly realize that the Shaker life is not for them. But it struck me as incredibly noble that these two remaining Shakers would not just open the floodgates of their compound to any interested malcontent. They would rather see their sect die than see it be poisoned, twisted, made less than it was supposed to be. That sounds like true devotion to me, and I definitely have deeper respect now for the Shakers, one of America’s most iconic religious communities.

are personality types a thing?

I used to be super obsessed with the Myers Brigg’s Personality Test ( In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s a pretty old personality test that helps indicate the different ways that people perceive the world and make decisions. There are 16 different types, and once you take the test, the website can give you all kinds of information that is supposed to reflect/predict how you live/feel about almost every aspect of your life (friendships, parenthood, romantic relationships, career paths, workplace habits, etc.). 

When I was in high school, I took this test for the first time and absolutely loved it. Almost everything the results told me were creepily accurate, and it helped me feel understood as a person in a way that I myself hadn’t even felt yet (part of this was because it was my first time living a part from my nearly identical twin sister). So this test really acted as a lifeline for me and helped me feel more secure in my identity and who I was. But I took the test again at the end of high school, and realized that my personality had apparently changed. At first, I was upset and thought it must have been a mistake- I tried to put it out of my mind. It wasn’t until this past winter break that I decided to take the test again, and actually began to understand and identify with my new result. I decided that it made sense that I had changed as a person throughout high school- I’m definitely not the same person I was went I left home for the first time. 

But I’m still kind of unsettled about what this change means, and how to relate to this test anymore- it doesn’t provide the simple answer that it did when I was 15. While I think my “new” personality type in some ways reflects the way I’ve grown throughout high school, I don’t completely connect to it- part of me still relates to the result I got four years ago. What do you guys think- is there any use to these personality tests after all? Or are people too complex, too unique, too constantly changing and growing to be defined by just four letters?

20 minutes after goodbye

Grace and I are still standing in the mission lobby late at night, with me wondering what types of conversations are the most meaningful. Girls love to talk to each other about their boy situations (in fact, that happens on most of our runs), but is that frivolous? Should we be talking about “more important things” than boys? But what does “more important” mean? What “should” we be talking about? And what are the point of conversations anyway? Are they only to get closer to the people one is talking to, or is the goal to have an epiphany about life or a topic? What is the “best” conversation? It feels like for every type, there could be a criticism. About boys? Too frivolous. About class? Too nerdy. About the future? Too practical. About politics? Too distant from life (or not). Maybe every type has its own value.

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