— Wow! My heart just fell out my nose because you guys understand the same math jokes I used to make in high school!
— Indeed, little pre-freshman, did you know lots of people at East Campus have heard all those jokes before.
— Excuse me, I drilled a hole in the wall during Rush and need to come back to finish what I started.
— Yes! The erection of it’s-going-to-kill-you-if-you-don’t-show-an-upperclassman-first lofts is a much loved alternative to the white wall asylum decor of the MIT bachelor program. Did you know you can also build a chair out of frozen cockroaches?
— Wow Jack! You’re so jaded and cool and acerbic and angry at the world! Throw another package at me, please!
— [Under the soft glow cast by a Green Building, eyes stained red with caffeine and framed by the bleached shell of a human skull glance up from a computer and a cat-scratched hand turns the headphone volume up.]
East Campus is my reason the hermit crab loves his shell. East Campus is the sled in hand at the top of a tall snow-covered hill when the air is still and the trees are dead.
Sometimes the walls of East Campus walls cave in, only to give a hug. Sometimes the one nail hidden in the one dark corner manages to draw blood, and you can only step back and appreciate the art. Sometimes, glinting from the bottom of the stream of emails, the simplest words slice the leash of worldly obligations for a single, euphoric moment. One can fall in love a dozen times a day laughing along with their authors. Lucidity in a dark and stormy valley. The sweet smell of sanity wafts in from a mural or is heard whispered over the din of collegiate hypocrisy (and other provocations comorbid with growing up in a hive of 400 young “adults”).
East Campus is where we learn the rules of the playground. A training ground for life. Like you expect: Wash your dishes, do your laundry. Save your money, call your mom. Like you find out: Don’t go crazy, don’t go crazy. This is where people mocked when we craved something shiny and new. “You don’t need new clothes, that’s expensive, come to career fair.” “You don’t need to go out to eat, that’s wasteful, there’s a hall feed in three days and a new ramen recipe.”
“No, you don’t need shoes to check the mail.”
What comes after? A room with Norman Rockwell? Seeing upperclassmen graduate talk about the Outside, I recoil in horror. When I taste talk about East Campus adding locks to keep out the ghosts, and cameras to keep in the hope, and elevators to lift our chins, and boat shoes to walk down the rat race, and fashionable dress shirts to be presentable at the sacrificial altar, I deflate in resignation.
I don’t want to leave my hermit crab shell. I don’t want to listen to a billboard or see another ad telling me why I’m not good enough. I don’t want to talk about what’s on TV. I don’t want to be excited about something, just because a statistical number of Americans are. I’m scared I’ll forget. I’m scared my eyes will cloud over. I wish my dorm room had a seatbelt, so that I won’t get flung off the bus. I wish the Kool-Aid never ran out.
East Campus is not heaven, nor the map to it. East Campus is a trampoline.
We’re dropped from our parents’ hands at the end of high school and, upon entering East Campus, are now flying up in one big, four-year-long bounce to peer over the dark clouds of the future—always threatening to rain. What’s to see? Nothing but crisp, open, blue sky. As clear as an azure sky of deepest summer.
We see in celestial brilliance that heaven is built by ourselves—out of silly hairstyles, fandangled lofts, and grudges against the world. Out of hobbies and interests chosen on our own, and unfettered by a conception of the norm. From so high up (likely from the vantage point of a wooden rollercoaster), it’s hard not to look down and pity the gawking ants. So satisfied, with a snack acquired at 3AM on a group trip to the bakery, it’s hard to not feel full in a way you know some never will.
— I heard East Campus is one of the Scary Dorms.
— We’re only scary because we can see what you can’t. No… what you don’t.
(Oh and get your enlightenment now, there’ll be “water damage” any day now. Try and nihilist that away.)