The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

The Grinnell bubble


Grinnell is a place where we have extremely high standards for ourselves. Everyone here is committed to academics and to making the most of their education, and respecting each other in terms of identity (race, gender, etc.) or otherwise. Overall, besides that moment when someone drops their tray in the D-Hall and everyone claps, we’re just not douches to one another (yes, if you clap, you’re a douche!).

Alongside this sense of community, we’ve all come become acquainted with The Grinnell Bubble. It’s the sense that, once you’re in Grinnell, everything that happens here happens in an extraterrestrial vacuum that sucks you out of the real world. I like comparing it to the Rabbit Hole from Alice in Wonderland. Like to go downtown to the museum, spend some time reading a book on the train? Not here. Folks back home are pretty conservative? We got our own drag show! Got a banging sex life back home? HA.

But what effect does this bubble have on us? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Are we baked right in the middle of a warm apple pie or are we trapped in a quicksand and slowly sinking?

Well, for one thing, you’re pretty much free to express yourself however you want. I remember seeing a male 2012’er strut in the D-Hall wearing three-inch heels. He was killing it. And no one really blinked an eye. This points to one of the most lovable traits of Grinnell: that everyone here is not really “normal.” In a time when we’re figuring out what kind of person we want to be once we head out into the real world, this can be very encouraging for personal growth and safety.

Additionally, our professors care about us. They make an effort to remember everyone’s name in class, forge lasting bonds with students and are generally a constant presence on campus in or out of class. Students regularly attend dinners at professors’ houses or house-sit for their professor. Even get a little tipsy with them at Pub Quiz!

Zoom out a little more, and you’ve got the commitment of the alumni to their alma mater. Our sense of community extends well beyond the student body. If you can find a Grinnellian on the outside, you’ve got yourself an ally.

We’re all pretty much friendly, or at least decent, with each other. Maybe it’s because we have to see each other often. As in everyday. Best friends, acquaintances, crushes, even exes—chances are you see them on a daily basis. While it can be pleasant to have your friends a stone’s throw away, it can also be exhausting.

If you happen to be in an off mood and it reads on your face, it’s like your’re holding a neon sign that says, “Ask me what’s wrong!” Which can be kind of uncomfortable. When you’re angry, explaining why you’re pissed isn’t the first thing that comes to mind; you just want to be pissed off for a while. In a time when our development into adults calls for emotional awareness, control and, at times, suppression in favor of getting shit done, this constant “on the radar” can add some unwanted social pressure.

Living in Grinnell is not something that comes naturally. Yes, all colleges involve living amongst your peers in dorm rooms (sharing a bathroom, ew!), classes (we’ve got it pretty rough, though) and overall angst about what to do with your life (why did I major in English?!). But Grinnell, at the end of the day, is a small campus in a small town. No city, a limited nightlife and, for the most part, no new faces.

For me, coming from Chicago, a city of 2.5 million people, to Grinnell was a huge adjustment. It’s an adjustment that takes a lot of trial and error and some students, unfortunately, never quite figure it out. Learning to live a healthy life here requires patience, practice and a willingness to ask for help. So don’t feel like a failure or a freak if you’re stressing while everyone seems to be cruising along. We need to be honest about what we’re capable of, and honest about what we need in order to live a healthy life here. Even though it feels like it’s trying with all of its might, don’t let this place wear you down.

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