For the love of Christ, don’t put two condoms on. That is a terrible idea!
I am officially (as of last Saturday) in possession of an Associate of Arts degree from Oxford College of Emory University. It’s not actually in anything, as far as I can tell, but they gave me an inconveniently large piece of parchment with my name in a fancy font on it, so that’s got to be worth something. Thus ends my frequently-emotionally-conflicted tenure at the better of Emory’s two options for starting your degree*.
There was a lot of talk during the commencement speeches about community. That has been my favorite part about Oxford. When my car battery decided to scare me by almost going belly-up before graduation, I knew that there were people at Oxford who would help me tow my car or haul in a replacement battery or generally listen to me freak out. One of my friends helped me jump my car at 10:30 at night in the cold, and there is something–a very real something–to be said for friends who will help you out when they do not have to and when it is inconvenient and cold and late. There is something to be said for that, particularly when those people include not just your peers but your professors, your boss, and your chaplain (doubly so if you, like me, are an atheist–our chaplain’s awesome). That is wonderful.
There was also a lot of talk about connections made based on interests, rather than geography. That’s sort of the promise of college: the people around you will not only tolerate your weirdness, but share it and make a club out of it and make a major out of it if you’re into that kind of thing. And, in some ways, that was very much true: I met anthro majors who would talk to me about gorilla feet for hours and not even hint at the fact that they were bored, though they surely were.
On the other hand, it’s disingenuous to pretend that at a school of 900 people, in the absolute middle of nowhere, Georgia, that friendships are not based in some or in large part on proximity. That’s not necessarily bad. In an environment as diverse as Oxford, that kind of friendship forces you to reach outside of people who are exactly like you. That is good and is helpful and is part of what college is supposed to help you do. It is not what the speakers were talking about, though.
In a pool that small and that isolated, it is sometimes impossible to find people who care about what you care about, either because they are quiet about it (fearing judgement) or they simply do not exist–there aren’t enough of us. That can be–and frequently was, for me–really discouraging. It’s great for the middle-aged, white lawyer who spoke at our commencement to say that you form friendships based on commonalities at Oxford, but I am almost certain that the single out transgender student Oxford produced in my tenure probably doesn’t feel the same way.
Friendships based on proximity aren’t bad. “We live near each other and don’t hate each other” is likely to be the foundation of the majority of most people’s adult friendships. So it does frustrate me to be told something that doesn’t mesh with my experience when I don’t think that experience is bad–my unhappiness at Oxford was a product of me, rather than the structure of the school.
I’m still not sure how to feel about the place. I’m not far enough removed. I am excited to be moving forward at the Atlanta campus. I am satisfied about the decision I made to start school in the scholar’s program at Oxford. I’m looking forward to trying even if unsuccessfully to be a better friend in the future, to take action rather than whining, and to making the things that I want happen. So there’s that.
* I’m kidding. Calm down, Emory College.