This is the first of a two-part series on keeping the Kenyon experience in perspective.
When we were asked to write some reflections on post-grad life (a task we were asked to do because we are both famous Kenyon alumni whose books are currently on The New York Times’ best-seller list — whoops, I’m confusing us with John Green and Ransom Riggs, AGAIN; we are actually the famous alumni who began the Kenyon literary blog, The Calling Bell, which you can read at thecallingbell.tumblr.com), we both struggled with comparing and contrasting college and “adult” life: which did we prefer and why? We then realized that even asking that question is a set-up for failure because it’s not particularly fair or healthy to examine your life — especially at age 23 — in terms of Better and Worse or Have and Have Nots. I will, however, go on the record saying that pretty much everything is better than it was in junior high.
When I’m sitting at at my desk, counting down the hours until I get to eat the salad that I made this morning by throwing a bunch of spinach, shredded carrots and feta cheese into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag because there was no clean tupperware, it’s very easy to romanticize Kenyon. I really enjoyed living in a world that was size small surrounded by minds that were size large. I loved that the employees at the post office knew my name and P.O. box by heart. I loved walking down Middle Path and recognizing someone up ahead just by the way he or she walked. I loved showing up to Peirce at any hour and being able to find a familiar face. All of these have two important things in common: they are things I loved about Kenyon College and they all took time. They took time, they took time, they took time. This is a mantra I repeat to myself daily. Forging community is definitely easier when you’re in a remote village surrounded by your peers, but it’s not instant. Forging community outside of said remote village is more difficult, but it’s still worth it. Relationships — to people or places — take time.
Over time, Gambier became a place where I was friends with people in different classes as well as people who worked at the bookstore, Peirce, the post office, Safety, etc. It became a place where I felt like the affection I put into the community was very much reciprocated and thus, I was able to be a shameless weirdo waving her freak flag for all to see. My life now is completely unlike my Kenyon life, but I’m still very much that same passionate and painfully nerdy person — in large part because of the friends I made in Gambier, Ohio. Like I said, it’s very easy to romanticize Kenyon, but it’s crucial to remember that for most of us, Kenyon is the people, not the place. The people who made us see the world differently, who sat with us while we cried that time by the upper Norton girls’ urinals, who sang along with us to “Thunder Road”, who saved us a seat at Peircegiving, who hugged us goodbye before winter break and texted us “I miss you” before we even got home. And we missed them, too, because they had become more “home” to us than our hometowns, and vice versa. Those people who are home to us, wherever we live in the world, make it possible for Kenyon to be a part of our everyday lives instead of just four years we randomly spent in rural Ohio.
If I have any nuggets of wisdom to share from post-Kenyon life, they are these: it takes time to become endeared to and comfortable with new places and people, but once you do, they will be with you through anything, everything. Oh, and also, you have not LIVED until you’ve made ice cubes out of coffee and then used them to make the best homemade iced coffee on the planet.
Frances Satagate Sutton ’13 was an anthropology major. Maggie Jaris ‘13 will write the second portion of this article. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This will be the first of a two-part series on post-grad life.
Maggie Jaris ‘13 was an English major, and can be reached at email@example.com .