I graduated from my dream college a little over a week ago. When I say “dream college” I mean the one and only college I applied to after visiting during my junior year of high school. I mean the college I wanted to get into so badly that I pushed myself to get the 4.0 GPA, to play varsity tennis, be the leader for five different clubs, to boldly go where no one in my family had ever gone before: college. And yes, to my privilege, I did go there. I spent 4 years learning, loving, and getting to know the four other lovely women I write with on this blog. One week later, after stuffing a queen-sized mattress into a room that barely fit a twin, I’m in my parents’ house, the last place I wanted to end up after graduating.
They’ve attempted to make it more cozy; there’s a large Robert Doisneau portrait hanging on one wall. On another, there’s a mod looking painting of an angel strumming a harp. I painted my room gray, strung up fairy lights, and covered every surface with candles, succulents, air plants, and tubes of lipstick. My dog, despite curling up in a ball on my bed, found a way to hog the exact spot where I sleep at night. This is home, or house, and in my week here I’ve been weighing two different options that seem to be growing heavier each day I avoid them: do I stay or do i go?
When I made the decision not to go to graduate school right away, I listed a dozen or so excuses to justify my decision: mental health hell, my senior thesis project, I didn’t “feel ready”, I wanted to get my driver’s license, I wanted to just see what options home had, I wanted to see my dog, etc. All these things were true, but they were never the real reason for why I didn’t apply. Honestly, I did not want to leave my bubble.
At Kalamazoo College, we have a thing we call the “K bubble”, which means that people have a tendency to get sucked into the small community of our liberal arts college. Weeks go by before you notice that you have only seen the walls of your dorm room or campus. You haven’t left campus aside from running to the Walgreens on the corner of West Michigan and West Main (which was pretty much still campus). You live in the library or the fine arts building or the science building. Sometimes you sneak away to catch some z’s in your actual bed at home, or you sink into one of the chair’s next to the coffee shop between classes. The point is, you don’t leave. For four years you inhabit a tiny world with its own opinions and norms; you learn its language (DOGL, FAB, DOW, FACMAN, D-Watts, Stacks), its culture, and how to be in that space.
The “K bubble” was comforting, even when it got annoying. There was a structure in it that always made me feel like I belonged, like I knew what I was doing. Did I most of the time? Absolutely not. However, it gave me the illusion of that and when it came time to apply to grad school, I decided to let deadlines skate by me as I immersed myself in my final months in undergrad.
The “K bubble” pops the moment you cross the stage. During the fraction of time we cross the stage individually, when suddenly all we are thinking about is what four steps we need to remember (shake hand, smile, tassel, picture) and don’t hear people cheering for us, or see the thousands of faces around us, that’s when it pops.
But the home bubble still remains.
It feels more like living in a one of those vacuum-sealed bags than an actual bubble. It’s cramped, stale, and at this point, I would gladly take my “K bubble” again. There are expectations from my family. Just writing this is nearly impossible without having my mom ask me to drop everything to help her with something around the house. Coming home at any time I want isn’t permissable to my parents. I’m molding into the post-grad life, and I feel myself being compressed more and more the longer I sit idly.
When I look at job openings I sigh. What I want to do is far away from here, in states and cities I’ve never been to. I’d be alone there. I’m afraid.
But the choices are still there. While they might not be to apply to graduate school, my choice to move out keeps nagging at me during every conversation with family and friends who are so happy to see me home. When my mom tells me that I don’t have enough room in the house for my massive library, I cringe, daydreaming about my own apartment in Minneapolis or Chicago. The move is coming soon, I can feel it.
I just need to start living without a bubble.