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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bursting My Bubble

 I wrote this essay as a personal statement for a job application as a writing tutor. I got the job, but my bubbles still burst. Here's my take on learning uncomfortable, disturbing things about life. I can only thank God that He's always on the throne.

When acting in a play in high school, a friend once approached me and declared, "Miriam, you live in a bubble, and one day, it's going to burst." In the past few years, I have kept reflecting on her words, wondering how they could have had some unforeseen meaning in my life today. Indeed, I wish my college application had asked me to write about how I reflect on my friend’s statement. Each day, I see her words coming to pass. The little bubbles of my life continually burst, forcing me to face a world that does not always conform to my ideals, or grant me the same comfort I had while living in my bubble.

To begin with, my life before Dartmouth did not fully prepare me for independence. I lived a very sheltered life in Kenya. When I was in high school, my family visited me during the allocated school visits, unlike other families that were either not able to do so, or lived too far away to make the journey. However, coming to study in America changed this entire setup. Living miles away from home, I have had to live without the comforts that an education in Kenya would have accorded me. Interestingly, this displacement allows me to fully empathize with the students from my high school, whose parents never visited them during the school visits. Because I study in a foreign country, my parents cannot easily come visit me during the parents' day weekend, or during any other time in the school calendar. Like my peers from high school, I can now understand how the feeling of "missing out" can sometimes dampen one’s spirit.

Apart from repositioning my thinking with regard to empathy, bursting my bubble has made me see that the world isn’t as simple as I had once chartered it out to be. As I was preparing for my final year of high school, Barack Obama was elected as the United States president. His election catapulted him into heroic status in Kenya, and I regarded him as evidence that race no longer mattered in America. His election convinced me that the world would become a marginally better place. Armed with this attitude, I matriculated at Dartmouth. Nevertheless, in almost two years, I have learned that this is not the glossy story I had painted it out to be. Sadly, the world remains a bleak place.

At the heart of this bleakness is the image of Africans in the minds of many Westerners. By coming to the US, I have had to confront this image, realizing in the process that developed nations do not always have the interests of developing nations at heart. In my classes, my heart breaks every so often, when I hear assumptions about Africans perpetuated, or African people treated without dignity. As the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once pointed out, all that most people know, is the single story of Africa—that of a starving warring continent. Indeed, I sometimes feel like scrambling for cover when my peers look at me, and wonder if my family had something to eat, or if a professor gently says, “I hope your family is fine. I hear there's a famine in Kenya.” Their concern does not anger me, but the status quo does. Living in my bubble, I had thought that the world was perfect; that we were all friends united in love. Stepping out of my bubble has had its consequences: I now know that the world excels far more preserving inequalities.

At Dartmouth, my friends often joke that I'm the last to know about everything that takes place on this campus. Indeed, I didn’t know about the infamous hazing incident until a friend brought it up. While Dartmouth students are often accused of living in the Dartmouth bubble, I stand far more accused. I live in a bubble within a bubble. Nevertheless, my bubbles burst with each new experience that reifies my friend’s words. If I had to rewrite my college application, I would concede that the naiveté of living in my bubble hardly made me a critical thinker, or the leader that Dartmouth set out to mold. Instead, with the benefit of hindsight, I would write how my bubble has burst so far, and how I strive to live in and impact a world that does not conform to my ideals.

Still smiling. My soul clings to You. Your right hand supports me (Psalm 63:8)


  1. This has made me start reflecting on my life. Thank you dear.

    1. You're welcome dear. How wonderful it is though that we never have to walk alone, that we can always ask for God's peace!

  2. True sis wow very beautiful..and I love those frames

  3. very inspired and true that each one of use in their own way lives in their own little bubble.As life bursts one we make another all by ourselves unknowingly

  4. Very touching, I will be following you. Am also a blogger and business writer though of late I have been having busy schedules.

    Great work here