St. Olaf Sentiments: March 3, 2017

As graduation comes closer and closer, the one question that I have been constantly asking myself is whether this Hill serves to represent what living in a community actually looks like. For someone like me, who has experienced life on this Hill either through the eyes of a foreigner, or as a melancholy and, at times, depressed person, it has not been easy to provide my own life as a claim that could support the argument of St. Olaf as an actual community, or even a working one for that matter.

Almost three years have gone by, and yet, as I constantly scanned the multitudes of faces that passed me – or in some cases, greeted me – in the P.O. boxes of the Crossroads, or at the tables of the Caf, or through the treadmills of Skoglund, I still could not find the sort of “community” that Oles have been talking about constantly to prospies whenever they have the opportunity. Instead, I see Oles living within their own respective worlds that they have created and structured in minute detail, so that few can come in – and those who do come in might find it difficult, if not painful, to get out. I am sure this sort of babbling is something that people in this college have heard from time to time. And yet, it seems that the feelings that make one welcomed in this community do not grow as the years go by for me. On the contrary, they dwindle as people begin to fully realize how this “community” actually works, and what rules one has to adhere to in order to make the four years of college worthwhile.

Of course there are those who beg to differ. Having felt so much love and support all around, these people might argue to me that I should have put in a bit more effort to seek out the people around me and shape the community as I see fit, so that I wouldn’t have placed myself in a melancholy, or even depressed position over the past years. To give them the benefit of the doubt, I admit that there is a sense of truth within that argument, and that I could have done more on my part. Nevertheless, if this school is as inclusive and welcoming as the brochures and tour guides have told me, then why should I be looking for people to love and support in the first place?

Alas, as an Indonesian proverb puts it, “the rice has become the porridge.” What has happened has happened. I have neither the privilege nor the luxury to turn back to my first day on the Hill and let my former self know what constitutes a “community” at St. Olaf. Despite everything, however, I began to make peace with the reality that the community that Oles are advertising is not the sort of community that I, and perhaps many others on this Hill, are seeking. If I could have that luxury of speaking to my former self as he first stepped his foot in Buntrock Commons, however, I would tell him that this place is not a community, but a microcosm, and paraphrasing Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, I would leave him with this last saying:

“This college: it is like the world in miniature. It is like the … microcosm. Just as in the outside world. Hopes, dreams, fears, secrets. This place: so full of the promise of youth. And yet, how lonely and silent are its corridors at night. Lonely and silent as the chambers of the heart. The daily struggle of human life, as fascinating as the bloodstain or the fingerprint.”