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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Baking out of the Brandeis bubble

Published: March 28, 2014
Section: Opinions

Around the beginning of the semester, the most wonderful thing was going on in the SCC. A Girl Scout troop had set up a table and was selling cookies—Girl Scout Cookies. Since I did not have any cash on me, I couldn’t buy any cookies. But it wasn’t the possibility of a box of decadent Samoas or Tagalongs that made me think twice while I walked past their table. It was their relative youth and innocence that seemed so out of place here on campus.

Brandeis is primarily composed of two somewhat homogenous groups—students and faculty. It’s not that we are homogenous in our backgrounds or ideas; that’s the opposite of what I mean here. Instead, every student is faced with the same problems every day on campus. Studying for midterms that always seem to occur around the same time for every class, struggling to find a job (either on campus or a real one) and dealing with relationships that appear to be more complex than the Gordian Knot. At the core of our education, students are trying to understand the fundamentals of whatever field they choose to study. The faculty share this aspect as well, since their jobs revolve around students grasping concepts they have devoted their lives to studying. What this creates is the oft-mentioned “Brandeis Bubble,” where everything at the forefront of our minds centers around what is in front of us, and we cannot be bothered with the world’s problems.

This leaves us lacking in the “cheer” department. Life can get considerably dreary just going in and out of class, trying to make everything work. Friends can help keep spirits high, but they are susceptible to the same downfalls that plague each and every one of us, and a bridge can’t support itself if its beams rely on only each other to stand up. There needs to be a foundation, which is why everyone needs to find some sort of break in the daily grind to make it through the week.

To find a solution for this, some go for a hike while others like to stay in, listen to soothing music and sip some Earl Grey. Yet the most apparent problem with activities like these is that they might not always offer a different perspective. While hiking or listening to music can relax and bring one to conclusions on issues they are facing, one can only reach this sense of sublime through their own volition. Finding a way to incorporate a divergent mindset is paramount to making a prudent decision. Obviously seven- and eight-year-old girls trying to earn a badge are the pinnacle of judgment when it comes to figuring out whether or not to pursue that relationship.

Though they might not offer any direct advice on the subject at hand, young children do provide that source of innocence that is lacking from our view of the world when we are surrounded by a majority of people so close to us in age. When this troop of Girl scouts first ran in with their mothers and their overwhelming joy just to be with their friends, it transported me back in time. A time when recess was a right, not a privilege, a time when a tree branch could transform into whatever my imagination wanted it to, a time when I was never brought down by the prospect of a term paper due the next day, never mind a 15-page one at that. There is something to be gained by this youthful exuberance at display whenever cookies are for sale in the SCC, at least more than just a few pounds.

It’s easy to forget that there is more to life than a biology exam when everyone around you is only studying and worrying about said exam. Or that while not being accepted to be an Orientation Leader may seem to be the end of the world to you, it really is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It would be sobering to be combated on these perceptions by someone with real struggles, but that could wind up being a bit too dispiriting for someone looking to change the world. Instead, a conversation with a child on what makes them tick, what they savor and what they think about things can be just as sobering and more satisfying than being reminded why the world is rotten.

Numerous opportunities are offered on campus to connect with and reach out to children. The Waltham Group has several programs that merge students and local youth in a positive environment. While the main purpose of these programs is to help the at-risk or disabled youth of the community, what winds up occurring more often than not is that the student benefits more than the child. If you believe that your time is more valuable than volunteering, you can seek employment at Lemberg Children’s Center and spend quality time with your professors’ kids.

All that aside, there truly is a need for students to burst the bubble that seems to form every time they walk back on campus. It isn’t healthy to surround yourself with only like-minded people when making important decisions. Just being reminded of what it means to be young and naive when class has got you down can instantly bring you out of that funk. Or you can just use it as an excuse to watch some cartoons.