Blow and pop: The life of a bubble

Opinion by Hannah Broderick
March 9, 2016, 11:59 p.m.

We here at Stanford live in a bubble. Think Cinderella when she’s mopping the floor, Glinda the Good Witch when Dorothy first gets to Munchkin land. These bubbles are beautiful and reassuring. The more countercultural and honest amongst us joke that such ephemeral shapes don’t reflect real life, instead offering us a reality filled with all-you-can-eat arugula salad bars, $15-an-hour student jobs and limitless, ever-growing intellectual vitality. While I have no doubt that the outlines of these bubbles contain us, I also believe that we should celebrate this creation, this security and the stupendous experiences we have within the soapy confines of our Stanford lives. Thursday Casino Nights with dealers at Branner lounge? An afternoon with Roxane Gay in Cubberley Auditorium? Sand volleyball outside Columbae on Sunday mornings? What pleasures we get to call our own. As Stanford students, we have been given the opportunity to blow our own bubbles, to develop a new sense of self and security within the confines of these spaces, the likes of which can expand to include challenging, comforting or simply wildly enjoyable experiences and people.

I am not naïve enough to believe that these bubbles will never feel too close, too well-established, too inflexible. It is in these moments that we ought to take the leap and render our confines nothing more than remnants of what once was. This past Friday morning found me a groggy-eyed daughter once again. It has been a long while since I played this particular role, and my outfit certainly reflected the change. Sneakers, jeans and an oversized sweater, I was their little girl once again. When my parents told me they were coming up for a weekend, I could never have anticipated the bubble struggle I would experience. You see, there was a dorm event, a student group social and a Japanese horror movie marathon planned for that Friday night. Not to mention meetings that Saturday, three hours of work Sunday morning and a final dance practice Sunday afternoon. As if that wasn’t reason enough to feel conflicted, this weekend is the weekend before Dead Week, my last-ditch opportunity to get going on those ever-looming final papers and projects. Alas, by this point, my bubble was firmly solidified, and I just didn’t have the heart or the guts to pop it. Luckily, my mom has no qualms about getting down and dirty with regiment and gladly served as a stand-in popper. Reaching her arms around my back, and pulling me close, she pressed that sphere down to nothing more than a wet stain on the asphalt. How quickly our loved ones remind us of what is really important.

Our family weekend began with a two-hour drive down to Calistoga, the hot springs and wellness center of Napa Valley. Less wine, more hippies and health food stores. Along the way through the valley, we passed grape fields, branches and barbed wire slippery with rainwater. Stopping to browse the racks of kooky card stores, eat salt-and-vinegar Lay’s and raid the candy counter at a local deli, we laughed ourselves back into familiarity. The following morning found us floating through a 102-degree natural hot spring pool discussing Trump, our childhood memories and which paddling club my sister is planning to join back home in Hawaii. These were breakthrough moments, simple for all their references to the past, easy for all their illusions to the future, when, away from our respective bubbles, we could hug and kiss and fill our minds with new thoughts and new connections with each other. My buttoned-up Dad laughed more and my tough-soled Mom allowed herself to relax, and the three of us created a dynamic of intimacy that reflected my age and our diverging life experiences.

We had the unexpected pleasure of watching “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” and “Fight Club” over the course of this weekend. “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” details the final four weeks of an unexpected pair of people whose intimacy feels false and cheap. Yet perhaps that is the point. None of us knows when the end will come — heck, we could be four weeks out. And so, we have to stay in the moment, experience life as it comes and push ourselves to truly feel it. “Fight Club” reflects the societal disillusionment and decay of a group of blue-collar workers. This movie was arguably more frightening than the first because it reflected the moral decay that results in the face of a fixed reality and society that ultimately amounts to nothing more than death. Both of these movies underlined the importance of escaping from the limits of our bubble in order to ensure a wide array of experiences.

Arriving back on campus today to a mountain of homework, dirty clothes and contraband dining hall dishes reminded me of the immense importance of popping our bubbles. While the familiar can feel like the most important, it is only once we leave this routine behind that we experience the ever-turning complexity of the world. This need to leave the known behind that I came to realize during this trip extends far beyond the Stanford campus. We are all, someway or another, operating within the confines of our own bubble — the corners of which we push out until we experience a tingly sense of discomfort that motivates us to stop our outward expansion.

As we all head into our last two weeks of winter quarter, spring break peeking its head out from behind p-sets and finals, the opportunity for bubble popping becomes smaller and seemingly less important. But is it? Perhaps this is when we need change and difference in our life the most! I’ll be picnicking on Lake Lag (rain or no rain!), mailing out postcards and blowing way too many meal plan dollars at Lag Late Night if anyone wants to join me! Happiest of days to you all!


Contact Hannah Broderick at inbloom ‘at’

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