Section: Opinion

How do you tackle the ‘Kenyon Claustrophobia’ that often impacts students?

You know what the Kenyon bubble said to me recently? “I miss my pop.” When I was a kid I loved to stand on a chair to reach the kitchen sink and “help” my dad with the dishes. Tired from a long day’s work and weighed down with family responsibilities, my dad, up to his elbows in dirty dishwater, would tell me about the amazing forces of nature that go into the creation of bubbles; he would admire their iridescence, evanescence, fragility and uniqueness, and he would tell me that once I learned to read, I could read books on physics he liked, such as Soap Bubbles and the Forces which Mould Them, and I would find fascinating insights. Bubbles, properly understood, were made for popping and play, for lifting the imagination and floating through the air, even if dishes took longer to finish. Stuck in the bubble of what could have become a claustrophobic routine, my dad harnessed childish wonder to explore the mysteries of the universe and inspire lifelong curiosity.

With mentors and friends, can we find a way to smooth the rough spots, break confinements and share the wonder and beauty of the journey, even while acknowledging the insularity of mortality in the frozen zones of a February heart? Sometimes it’s hard to escape the compulsion to be, in T. S. Eliot’s phrase, “distracted from distraction by distraction,” but joy abounds in the simplest of moments, and friends can point the way.  The advice I tell myself:  Schedule some time for spontaneity and wonder. Create (something simple like soup?) and share. Time-travel — Elizabethan England? Write your way out. Live the rhythms of the natural year; grab sunshine when you can and plan for spring.  Take your endorphins for a walk; they will multiply. Count blessings. Escape into the local wild. Let music change the mood. As Abraham Lincoln said, “To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.”

Adele Davidson ’75 is Charles P. McIlvaine Professor of English at Kenyon College.

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