I have seen the above phrase on a mural of Bellingham on the side of a building downtown and on a business sign. I like it. I think it works for the city I now call home. Nearly everyone I have met is extraordinarily laid-back. Irresponsibility isn't a part of this laid-back attitude, rather, it seems founded on the knowledge that life happens and one does the best one can with the life that happens. That doesn't seem a very good explanation, because everyone is passionate about, and works hard at, whatever they do, but stress doesn't seem to be a part of it. At least not the crazy, maniacal stress that makes one drive aggressively on the freeway, at speeds 10-15 mph faster than the posted speed limit, or monopolize conversations by emphasizing one's achievements. Everyone I meet seems genuinely interested in getting to know individuals. For example, it soon became apparent to the 24 other students in the grad program that I am LDS, since one of the first questions everyone asks is where one got one's undergraduate degree, but no one really seems to care - not the way people in Utah care if someone ISN'T LDS. A few people asked questions (nice, curiosity-based ones, not agenda-having ones) and one guy avoided me (later found out he was "raised Mormon" which totally illuminated the behavior) but there wasn't any judging. And I think that is what I like best about this city. People seem to be able to live and let live.
My graduate program itself is paradoxically completely intense and amazingly relaxed. All the professors insist you call them by their first names, which takes some getting used to, and seem more worried that we don't feel overwhelmed than anything. Not that they aren't demanding and expect good work from us, but more that they don't want us to be so consumed with our studies that we don't enjoy life in the here and now. In fact, the most time-consuming and stressful class I'm taking is the undergrad economics class I have to take for my endorsement. So while all of us grad students are completely immersed in pedagogy and philosophy and performance (seriously, in one class I have to do a mime. A MIME people. I suck at Charades, how am I supposed to do a mime? Okay, so there is a little stress.) we are also surrounded by people who want us to succeed; who want our lives to be good. Which is nice, and comforting.
Finally, I have never enjoyed school so much in my life as I do now. I am excited to go through this program, to embark on this career, to follow this path. Not that I wasn't excited before, but I was more than a little uncertain about it. Now I'm certain this is what I want to do with the rest of my life, even though I know it will be difficult and overwhelming at times, and that I will graduate with a significant amount of debt to be paid. So I, like the city, am subduedly excited.