As I was walking home from class the other day, I noticed that the leaves were slowly beginning to lose their vibrant orange and red and yellow. That, coupled with the fact that it's almost pitch dark by 5:30 p.m., reminded me that winter is, indeed, approaching fast. As much as the idea of a long, cold winter depresses me, I can't help but be thankful for the beautiful fall we've just had. Maybe the leaves weren't as pretty as they have been in past years, maybe it was a tad too cold on certain days, maybe the sun didn't always shine when I wanted it to, but the truth remains that in Hanover, fall is still spectacular. I try to take in all the natural beauty around me, but my admiration isn't limited to just the fall -- every night, as I return home, I look up at the sky to admire the stars that I never get to see at home due to all sorts of pollution. And it was on one crisp, moonlit, fall night that it finally hit me: I'm living in a bubble, a Dartmouth bubble.
I guess if I really had to choose a bubble to live in, I couldn't have picked a more picturesque one. We live surrounded by mountains, cradled in a New England valley where the leaves change color and the air is clean and fresh. We are isolated from civilization, our idea of a night on the town changing from clubbing in New York to having dinner at Molly's. We live in a cocoon that protects us from the evils of the outer world. Indeed, if we so choose, we can avoid watching or reading the news altogether and would have no real knowledge of what's going on in the outside world. We can spend our days learning new things and building new relationships without being bothered by silly things such as possible international war or elections or other such concerns that those in the real world have to constantly deal with. This, ladies and gentlemen, is our Dartmouth bubble.
This bubble sounds wonderful in a quaint, romantic sense. It appeals to the carefree child in all of us, and we're tempted to indulge the child as much as we possibly can. The real world can be a harsh place, and sometimes, it's hard to feel sorry to leave it behind. Our bubble can be our haven, a place to which we can turn to avoid the reality of daily brutality. And sometimes, the bubble is exactly what we need. My DOC trip last fall ended on a sour note as the events of Sept. 11 intervened in what might otherwise have been just another freshman bonding experience. Having missed all the live coverage of the events, I was faced with a choice on returning to campus: whether to watch the constant TV coverage of the terrorist attacks or not. I chose not to for various reasons, but the important thing is that this bubble made it possible for me to avoid the unpleasant images I would otherwise have been inundated with in the real world. There are times when we all need that refuge away from reality and our bubble is one of the best refuges possible.
That said, it's also way too easy to let the bubble engulf and absorb us. There are always the tests and midterms and labs and friends and the billion activities we all seem to be involved in. It's so easy to not know what's going on in the world that when something interests me, I have to make the extra effort to stay informed.
The hard truth is that the real world is here to stay, so receding to a bubble won't help us in the long run. Ultimately, we will have to face reality and remember not to take so many things for granted. Sure, the bubble is safe and comfortable, but isn't that too convenient a way to live? Can we really claim to be citizens of the world if we don't even try to be aware of the major issues it faces?
It's easier said than done. I think we all know how Dartmouth operates. Good intentions are just that and before we know it, we are sucked into midterm hell. And then really, who cares if there's a sniper running amuck in Washington, D.C. -- this lab report won't write itself, you know. That's how it goes, and we're all guilty of it. I don't think we should fight the bubble, necessarily. These are, after all, the golden years of our lives when we're somewhere in between being adults and teenagers and can live more or less irresponsible lives. We will never have this kind of bubble again, so it'd be criminal not to enjoy it.
But at the same time, we owe it to ourselves not to let the physical isolation of this place translate into intellectual isolation. So we might as well accustom ourselves to reality because you know, at the end of the day, we all have to leave this bubble, and like it or not, in the real world, you actually have to look before crossing the street.