Clippings: Lessons learned from the bubble

I tend to get caught in bubbles. Metaphorical bubbles, that is.
Growing up in a suburban town in central Ohio and moving to Middlebury after high school, I am attracted to the sense of comfort that small towns provide. The familiar faces, streets and foods are among the many things that contribute to this feeling of ease.
More often than not, these small towns that I have grown to love are protection for many. Consistency and reliability allow us to rest within our comfort zones.
But even the securities of a small town did not save my bubble from popping this summer. What started as a feeble attempt to step out of my comfort zone, ended in a hard-learned lesson. And what is a “life lesson” if not learned the hard way?
This summer, I decided to move off campus instead of living in the Middlebury College dorms. I needed a change of pace and thought it would be a fun experience to live in a house with other college-age people. It would be the perfect balance: People would be around all the time, yet I would have a level of privacy that dorms could not provide. I could see it all. We would have nightly dinners and the occasional movie, after which I would conveniently retire to my own room right upstairs. I would have all the benefits of dorm life with the added perks.
Unfortunately, I neglected to consider the one major difference between dorm life and “real” life. My roommates and I got along great, but at the end of the first month, something scary happened — the bills started to come.
Suddenly, between friends, money became an issue.
Trivial items, like toilet paper, were now sources for passive aggressive attacks. At one point, in an unspoken game of chicken, it was silently decided to see how long we could go without it, each of us refusing to buy more toilet paper for the whole house. We should have talked about who was responsible for buying the next pack, but no one ever brought up the issue. So instead, we all hoarded our own rolls in our separate rooms. It started to remind me of bad reality television, similar to “The Real World.” Like the show, I was beginning to find out “what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.”
It was not issues like these, but larger ones that challenged me to redefine my comfort zone.
Our lack of communication reached a head when our “money problems” went from petty toilet paper disputes to rent. After a series of miscommunications, we were eventually able to sort out our financial woes. But it did come down to the last second, causing us great amounts of stress and creating unnecessary tension.
It was this that caused me to reflect on the life skills me and my peers have acquired so far. All very smart people, the answer to our problem was not a hard one, but it was an awkward one.
It’s obvious that no one enjoys talking about money. Deemed impolite in our society, I never thought it was appropriate to discuss others’ financial situations. There is a social stigma surrounding money conversations that made me feel petty and inconsiderate in thinking about bringing it up.
Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to be the one to bring up the awkward conversation. I could have saved myself the worry of becoming homeless in five minutes. It would have been like ripping the Band-Aid off, instead of prolonging the inevitable.
But no matter how lame the excuse, there is a reason I’m no good at talking about this stuff. I have gone nearly 22 years without having to deal with the ins and outs of practical living. But just like anything else in life, practice will make perfect and with time, I will gain more “real person” skills.
So maybe the bubble has not yet burst, but it is slowly expanding. One day very soon, I will be exposed to the real real world and all the uncomfortable conversations that come with it. But until then, I’ll enjoy my bubble for one more year.

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