I have spent my life in bubbles. I grew up in an affluent New Jersey suburb, with picturesque houses lining every street.
I imagine my town would seem sleepy to some, but to me, it was all I knew. Prior to this, I lived in New York City, but I moved when I was three — leaving my big city memories in the tiny apartment where I took my first steps.
Growing up, everything felt comfortable. I went to school with the same faces for 12 years and saw the same people around town. While each person struggled with their own issues, any outsider would be hard-pressed to tell. Everything seemed close to perfect just like the white picket fences lining each home.
My biggest worry growing up was where I would go to college. Looking back, I realize this concern was a privilege. If I took the time to travel a few towns over and talk to people there, then I could have possibly met another high school student like me.
Maybe her worries would have been similar to mine. But maybe she would have been worried about making enough money to help her parents pay the bills, or whether the walk to school in the morning would be safe.
I never met this girl, since she was not in my bubble.
The time in between receiving my Lehigh acceptance letter and stepping on campus as a first-year was a blur of celebrations and goodbyes. While many of my friends boarded a plane to go to college, I only had to drive an hour. This didn’t bother me, though. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t have to go across the country to escape my bubble.
As an overly-exciting first-year, I jumped into college headfirst. My day-to-day life became that of the stereotypical college student — a whirlwind of classes, homework and time with new friends.
I looked back and wondered how it was possible that I was stuck in a bubble for so long without realizing it. Just as a fish doesn’t realize it is living in water, it is easy to take our surroundings for granted. They become background noise and something we never question.
It took me a while to come to terms that in escaping one bubble, I fell right into the next. While the university is different from my hometown, it is a bubble nonetheless.
Our campus is surrounded by an invisible fence. I feel it every time I step outside the perimeter. Driving home for pacing break, I sat and thought about the hundreds of thousands of places we would all be going back to for a quick visit. Going back into the “real world,” even for a few days, is often an unwanted reality check.
While at Lehigh, my days are planned out and stress is limited to my classes and academic goals. If you turn on the news, however, our world is in shambles. Chaos, war and confusion fill the air in ways I can hardly comprehend.
Maybe my lack of understanding is due to the fact that I’ve never escaped these bubbles. My life so far has been fairly sheltered.
While some, I’m sure, are blissfully unaware of this bubble, once you understand it, it is impossible to forget.
I have spent time traveling, meeting fascinating people and exploring my passions in an effort to escape the bubble. And while I feel less trapped, to say I am no longer in the bubble would not be true.
Maybe that’s for the best. I have been lucky that my worries right now are limited, so why try to change that? Still, I can’t help but wonder what the world would be like if the bubble was popped.
Isabel Portnoi, ’21, is an assistant news editor The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]