As graduation approaches, the question “why did you come to Grinnell?” rings in my head. The answer? Because they gave me money, lmao!! Because if I didn’t come here, I’d be some rando running around the University of Maryland, probably still trying to force myself to be a science major. That’s it! That’s what it boils down to. I’m incredibly privileged to be here, but I didn’t come here to study, or to do anything, really. I wanted out of where I was, I wanted the chance to find out who I was, and Grinnell gave me that escape route.
And I’ve been here since.
So it was strange when last week, while sitting on the grass during The Grinnellian, after being in Grinnell for 4 years, I found myself saying “this doesn’t feel like Grinnell” over and over again. A few of my friends felt the same way, but when pressed, none of us could come up with an answer. But it hit me mid-afternoon, what was weird about that day: it was a beautiful, dare I say, perfect day. I was happy, having fun, surrounded by friends and enjoying the good weather, and so was a pretty significant portion of campus. It didn’t feel like Grinnell because I was in a good mood and it seemed like everyone else was too.
There’s a lot of talk about a culture of Competitive Suffering, but behind that there’s just a culture of Suffering. Sure, I understand that we shouldn’t compete to see who’s having the worst time, but somewhere along the way, did we decide that people feeling the worst all the time is Normal? I’ll answer my rhetorical question for myself: yeah, I think we did. Or at least I did.
Which isn’t to say I’m Always Having A Bad Time, nor am I saying it’s not OK to feel terrible sometimes. But the fact that seeing a large group of Grinnellians outside together having fun in their own circles of friends struck me as strange still makes me feel a little weird. Is it Grinnellian to feel bad? I hope it doesn’t have to be.
The weekend didn’t ~cure my crippling depression~ but it did make me realize that I’ve been a bit complacent in letting this place bring me down. To an extent, I know I’d be sliding into the sewer no matter where I went; however, Grinnell™ is a unique sludgepit with its own challenges. I’m afraid Grinnell™ has maybe dirtied some things that are actually great about this place. Namely, the people and friends I’ve met, the relationships I’ve cultivated, and the sense of self I’ve forged in this hellfire (Aside: lmfao if you thought I was going to say anything about the institution itself was Great, bye). But luckily, the past can be rewritten. Maybe sooner than I’d like, I’m sure I’ll manage to untangle the terrible from the incredible of my Grinnell experience, and be left a weeping alum. (Make no mistake, I have no plans to stop being angry at the garbage Grinnell™ produces).
I don’t think I’d be the person I am right now if it weren’t for my time here at Grinnell. I mean, obviously. This is where I became a person. This is where I’ve earnestly tried to be as much of myself as possible. And whoops, I’m not going to bother explaining what that means. Maybe someday I’ll be a good enough writer to capture how I’ve gotten stronger, how it feels to see my friends succeed and smile, how it feels to realize that maybe my life is worth living. For now, just take my word for it. I’m grateful. I may not have had many reasons for coming here but I collected quite a few reasons to stay. And part of what I’ve learned at Grinnell is that I don’t think I want to go here anymore. But wherever I end up, I’ll be rooting for you. Thanks for the memories. I hope in these past 4 years, we’ve managed to put a smile on your face.