Isolation and the Bowdoin Bubble
March 27, 2020
It’s easy for me to remember the last time I felt this hopeless and distraught. It was in the fall of my freshman year, after the 2016 general election. Before election night, I was really excited. It was my first time participating in politics, and there I was, helping elect the first female president. But that didn’t happen. Trump became our president.
I’ll never forget being on campus during that time. Everything I valued and believed in was more or less overturned. I went to a professor and talked to her about how helpless I felt. I thought it was the end of the world. She comforted me and shared her own experience. She and her husband had tucked their two-year-old daughter into bed on election night and said, “Just think: when we wake up in the morning, we’ll have the first woman president!”
As a woman and a mother, she was devastated and scared for her daughter. What was she supposed to say now?
Now, my four years at Bowdoin have sadly coincided with the Trump era and the crisis, chaos and tumult it has brought. My freshman fall was dominated by Trump’s election and now my final semester—my senior spring—is overshadowed by the uncertainty and fear of the worst pandemic in generations.
Though my time at Bowdoin has coincided with the Trump era, it wasn’t defined by it. I recovered from the election results after a couple of weeks. I’ve had conversations about my disagreements with government policies, sympathized with and complained to my peers about the state of the world and even participated in activism on campus. But it never dominated my life.
I’m very fortunate and privileged to be able to say that. Bowdoin has allowed me to largely insulate myself from the chaotic and tumultuous outside world. Yes, I talked about what was going on in the world, but I also had the privilege to worry more about my life within the “Bowdoin Bubble.” While other people may have been worrying about the impact of policies on their lives and their futures, there I was, more worried about my GPA, my German paper and the fact that one of my best friends made eye contact with me in Thorne today. That’s privilege.
It’s even obvious with the way I reacted when I first heard that Bowdoin was transitioning to online classes. I was worried about not being able to get my stuff, to graduate, to have my Senior Week, to attend my last Ivies or to perform in my first musical. Those were the first things that ran through my mind, nothing else.
Going to Bowdoin has provided me with the privilege of living within its bubble. As much as people like to hate on it, this bubble has protected us time and time again. At Bowdoin, even if there’s a power outage or a terrible Nor’easter, I can be sure that I’ll still have to show up to Sills and take my midterm in the dark.
We live in our own world, where the headlines of our school newspaper are dominated by news of BPD’s crackdown on underage drinking or the fact that ResLife has lowered the amount of registered alcohol allowed at parties. These are the issues that excite us.
But it’s an entirely different situation this time. This pandemic has punctured our bubble. We can’t hide behind Bowdoin this time. This pandemic has isolated us, brought uncertainty and overturned our lives for the near future. The stability and sense of community that Bowdoin provided us was suddenly swept away. We can’t just go through the motions and ignore what’s going on outside.
I want to mourn the loss of my last semester, but I can’t. I don’t have the time for it. I’m too busy worrying about the fact that I’m entering the job market during an economic downturn. I’m worried about getting sick and I’m worried about my grandparents. I have to face the real world, and I have to face it alone.
I won’t have the strong community at Bowdoin to coddle and comfort me this time. Yes, we can still call, text or FaceTime our friends and professors, but it’s just not the same. We can’t get the same human connection over the phone. It’s hard and isolating, especially when we’re at home. We can’t just go downstairs to talk to our peers who will completely understand what we’re going through and the sense of loss we feel.
These are unprecedented times for sure, and they will require a lot from us. I’m confident that we’ll get through this crisis, but looking back, I didn’t expect to realize just how dependent I’ve become on this Bowdoin Bubble.
Roither Gonzales is a member of the Class of 2020.
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