My fifth-grade best friend and I were leaning against the railings of a portable in the back of our elementary school. We were eating some snack or the other, and within the comfortable confines of our inane conversation I told her, “Your life seems so easy.”
She took another bite and looked at me. “Yeah, I guess so. Its pretty nice.”
The past spring, my father had left and divorce papers had been served. In the beginning of my parents’ seven years of divorce proceedings, life was better, but suddenly more removed from the norm. The chaos of my father’s behavior was cut out of my life, but all of a sudden, life was no longer in the balance society prescribes. My friend, who lived in a large house with her two younger siblings and happily married parents, seemed to have it all.
Seven years later, I’m a lot more enlightened. I’m more than grateful for the emotional weight my parents’ divorce lifted from my family’s life, and I look back on the first nine tumultuous years of my life with hesitation. But the nine years since have also created periodic feelings of isolation as I considered whether or not life could have been better if I did grow up as a person with the life of my supposedly better off friends.
My perceptions were a mistake. As I came face to face with the complex reality every person lives in, I expanded my worldview exponentially.
Here’s the lesson I want to impart to you, dear reader: The idea that Palo Alto is in a bubble, that somehow we are overly privileged by virtue of our zip codes, is true to a certain extent. But the reality is this: Look into the complex reality of anyone around you and you’ll find that the grass is pretty evenly brown on either side.
Many of the organizations at Palo Alto High School — in particular the student publications — often base their actions off of the concept that you should escape the illusions of beautiful Palo Alto and pop that metaphorical bubble through said escape. What most people don’t realize is that while Palo Altans might be at something of an advantage because we have more resources, opportunities to succeed and comfortable lifestyles, that doesn’t mean we escape the failings of human nature and the dysfunction of broken families. No life is perfect, and we shouldn’t demean the experiences of others by claiming we live in a self-imposed bubble.
As I leave Palo Alto to attend college, I implore people to reach past the idea of the bubble, and to realize this, the struggles people face are universal. Sure, Palo Alto teens are privileged in many respects — but that doesn’t mean that our lives are perfect, and the second we realize that we can create a strong support structure for every person in this community. We can burst the bubble of believing in the bubble.