Written by: Emma Florez
Art by: Izzy Dickey
The people I’ve met since starting at college have given me so much strength. My mind goes into spirals of fear when I’m alone, but when I’m surrounded by people who love and accept me unconditionally, I can be calm.
Take the coronavirus, for example. Even though I’m more at risk for exposure when I’m at school, my fear of infection skyrocketed when I went home for spring break. Less than six weeks ago, I was stuffed in the basement of a Summit Street house, like a gamer in the common room at Smash Team practice. All I could think was, “What an incredible testament this is to the human spirit. A worldwide health crisis is happening right now, yet we’re not afraid to be this close to this many people.” Of course, the next thing I knew, I was falling all over my friends and had pink silly string in my hair, but I’ll take one moment of profundity from my first real college party.
I was desperately dehydrated when the water main burst. In addition to offering me rosé, jello shots (the only non-vegetarian thing I ate since coming back to school) that were so liquidy they needed to be drunk with Hanukkah straws, and encouragement that the water wasn’t brown so it couldn’t kill me, my amazing friend boiled a pot of water to make sure I would be alright the next morning. The people who I spend my time with make me feel safe enough to drink from shared cups and do things I would never do at home.
At the beginning of the year, I was afraid to even walk from the library to my dorm at night. I was able to find someone to walk me home. When I got my first tattoo, my friend brought me a bottle of water and walked back to campus with me to make sure I was okay. She even yelled at me when I told her I didn’t bring a girl for backup when I went on my first Tinder date.
Sitting in my perfect, white, twin-sized bed in my Cape Cod-style house in a Connecticut suburb, this college experience, this me feels so far away. I’m gripped with anxiety for my health. I could never drink without worrying my parents would catch me. I wouldn’t even dream of going on a date with someone I’d never met before, and I cannot believe people let strangers stab them with needles full of ink. But I did all of that.
My parents’ house gives the illusion of safety. The only safety it gives is shelter. True safety is the ability to go into scary situations with confidence in yourself and the people around you. True safety is taking risks. True safety is living life. Champlain College is my safe space, not by anything the administration has done, because God knows they’re overbooked, but because of the people. The people like Alex [name changed], who comes to IDX drunk and asks people for Juuls in front of their RAs. People like [REDACTED], who give underage kids a safe place to get trashed. People like Tyler [name changed] who invite people to hit their dabs. People who introduce just the right amount of risk.
Champlain College is my safe space because it is just dangerous enough.