All Duke everything
Now, it would be an understatement to say that as a child, I was obsessed with The Sims. I saved up for every expansion pack there was, and if I couldn’t get it, I may or may not have committed what was, to an 8-year-old, an unspeakable crime: internet piracy. But my obsession didn’t end there. I knew how to hack the game. I knew every twist, turn and pointlessly greedy cheat behind The Sims. I spent my preteen years getting abducted by aliens, removing stepladders from swimming pools and Woo-Hooing with the Grim Reaper. I also didn’t kiss a boy until high school. I’m not saying correlation always means causation, but sometimes it does.
Yet why do I find myself contemplating my former simulated friendships (other than that I definitely wish it was still socially acceptable to prioritize them over real friendships)? It’s because The Sims, in a lot of ways, reflect how real people live. Now it’s possible I’m only justifying my childhood hours spent on the computer or manufacturing a last-minute introduction to an article, but hear me out. Not only do we and Sims only questionably have free will (take a neuro class, you’ll never trust yourself again), but also both Sims’ and Duke students’ worlds seem to exist in a bubble. We Duke students are constantly hyper-focused on our own s---, much like the Sims are hyper-focused on their constant urinary incontinence or that chair they can’t seem to walk around no matter what. Yet they’re totally unaware that their whole little world is only a small blip in some 8-year-old’s computer. Much like the Sims, we often lose sight of the whole world around us in our community’s self-absorption.
This past weekend, I was definitely in Duke’s Sim World. Rush had, in my mind, elevated the importance of Duke life and Duke happenings to the extreme. I was invested in the process on multiple levels—both as a member of a Panhellenic organization, but also as the friend of many students going through IFC, Panhel and SLG rush. I felt trapped, frustrated and without any real agency. I was worried for my freshman friends—that they wouldn’t end up where they wanted—and I was worried for myself, selfishly wanting all of them to end up where I was or where I thought was best for them. Add this to the fact that rush is quite literally inescapable on campus, and suddenly, in my mind, Duke life took on some weird, extreme importance.
What’s great about living in the Duke bubble as opposed to Sim World bubble, though, is that we can always escape the vacuum (which, hopefully, Sims never figure out how to do, because if they do, mine will assuredly kill me). On Saturday, with the cumulative pressures of rush and academics and extracurriculars, I was at my boiling point. Using my typical coping strategy, I bolted off campus to the nearest Asian food dispensary.
Luckily, a Vietnamese food truck was parked right near my apartment. I was still wearing my rush clothes, which, frankly, looked pretty ridiculous outside of the Inception-style, white girl bubble-within-a-bubble that is Panhellenic recruitment. This kick-started a conversation with the guy running the truck. After a few minutes of talking, he basically burst with excitement, telling me that he was just too happy to contain it. It was his first day open, he said, and running this Vietnamese food truck was his life’s dream come true. At that moment, I was wrenched at top-speed out of the Duke bubble and back into reality. I was reminded of all the awesome things and people in the world outside of Duke, and none of the silly Duke drama seemed to matter anymore.
Duke has spent a good three years convincing me that Duke is the only thing that matters. Duke academics, Duke social scene, Duke sports, Duke administration—all Duke everything. As a senior about to graduate, somehow Duke has never felt so simultaneously important and unimportant. I feel the need to immerse myself in Duke and cherish it while it lasts, but as I begin planning for my “real life,” Duke’s issues and problems have never felt more trivial.
So go burst your own Duke bubble. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the social trappings linked with your affiliations (or lack thereof). Go out and meet some Durhamites—you might find they’re less “sketchy” than you thought. Keep your life goals in mind, and don’t let silly college drama distract you from what you really want out of your time here. Duke is just a tiny, isolated portion of a great world ahead of us, and we would do well to remember that—lest we become more like the Sims, in which case I hope you all packed your adult diapers, because it’s gonna be a moist ride.
Lillie Reed is a Trinity senior. Her column is part of the weekly Socialites feature and runs every other Wednesday. Send Lillie a message on Twitter @LillieReed.