Opinions, Column

Rethinking the Bubble

I took to the tunnels when the air outside became too intoxicating. The “Sophomore Slump” hit me like a barreling Green Line subway car. The slump was a silent weight that I carried throughout first semester, a feeling that was worsened by the large amount of free time I had to freak myself out with existential thoughts. Unable to speak about the things that kept me up at night, I decided that this semester I was going to be busy.

For a few weeks, I’d been taking the T three times a week to go to work in Boston. I would assemble my books to read on the ride inbound, prepare my dinner for the return trip, and hike dutifully to the Chestnut Hill stop—an ordeal that would leave me exhausted by the time I arrived at the station. Yet there was something oddly refreshing about seeing a rusty Green Line train rumbling to a slow, creaking stop. As I left suburbia, stepping into the warm interior of the train, I was comforted by the fact that in a matter of 30 minutes, I would step out of the Boylston stop, and be overcome by a rushing cityscape. At least, this was how I felt in the beginning.

When I first told people that I had to go into Boston regularly, I was met with an onslaught of congratulations and envy for being able to “break out of the BC bubble.” But “breaking out” for me was much more about escapism than branching out. I was never any good at dodgeball back in the day, but I think that I, along with many others at BC, participate in this persistent culture of dodging or escaping.

Starting with the simplest example, how many times have you told anyone that you were “good,” even after having a terrible day? How many times have you ghosted someone because you were simply too afraid to be honest? The things that are sources of discomfort sit and fester inside the BC bubble, forcing us to try and remedy these sentiments by running away from them. Needless to say, I took to the tunnels for the wrong reasons.

Gradually, I began to fall out of love with the T. Maybe there wasn’t even love there to begin with, just a simple, fervent desire to escape. Many train interiors were defaced with handwriting on the walls and strange smells often diffused throughout the cars. I would get on the T during rush hour, cramming into the packed trains that seemed like cattle cars, and see numerous faces withdrawn into some unreachable, private nook. There’s a barrier between people riding the subway—an unspoken rule to not sit directly next to someone if the T is not entirely filled. Eyes are averted, earphones are in, and a wall is set up.

You don’t even have to get on the T to experience this. Just stand in a darkened station platform, and you can see people eyeing each other suspiciously. The truth is, the “BC Bubble” is not a unique condition. It is a human condition, a persistent fear of appearing or being vulnerable. Riding the T, however, was never going to make my problems go away or make me a more honest or transparent person.

After traversing the grim, shrieking, serene reality of the subway, I’ve come to see it as a metaphor for the escapist culture that exists at BC. The subway is a social equalizer, bringing together people from various backgrounds and shuttling them through dark underground networks. As the trains slip into the tunnels, sterile fluorescent lights flash against the stony gloom, and we, trapped inside, all hang on together in silence. Maybe the subway culture is too permanent to fix, but we can work to break the silence together at BC. We shouldn’t leave our home until we deal with the things that are troubling us. After all, we are just passengers together on this wild, four-year-long train ride. Why not make the most of it?

Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Editor

February 16, 2017