The East Grand Rapids Bubble

Emily Nelson - Brazil


August 30, 2019

Photo: Making new friends at the Global Launch (with Sophia Miller, Senegal Cohort)

When I grew up, I played outside. I used my time to climb every tree in the neighborhood, escape the soap in my mother’s hand when I said ill-mannered phrases such as “that’s stupid,” race my sister’s to the community pool on our aluminum Razor scooters, and “cook” in my family’s play house in the backyard (one of my specialties being root beer, made solely from mud). As a child, living in a small and safe neighborhood created a bubble that exposed me to something I like to call ‘regulated good’. I experienced the joy in traveling, I saw happy families picnicking by the lake, and I felt love.

 

But there was a lot more I didn’t see. I didn’t see how a deep, dark struggle could connect the shattered souls of hollowed and waiting to be born again humans, I didn’t see how difficult conversations could bring a new meaning into someone’s life, and I didn’t see how anyone could be happy with so little. It actually took me moving away for a semester to learn about these things.

 

Looking back, I viewed my life with blissful ignorance. Then, during my junior year of high school, I attended the Conserve School, a place where I had conversations about the Ebola epidemic and was apart of a march out of school focused on standing with survivors and families of school shootings. Here, realizing how unequivocally indescribable life can be, I came to the conclusion that being uncomfortable is what shapes people the most.

 

Coming to Stanford, I didn’t know what to expect. Only four days ago, I was so worried about my time here. I came in thinking it would be a good experience, but I didn’t realize just how transformative it all would be. I have already had a two hour conversation with five other people covering topics such as desensitization to violence, human extinction, and the White Savior complex and I have listened to people with such great insight speak about racism and inequality with such a refreshing perspective you can feel your stomach flip. I have already changed in less than a week, so I cannot wait to see what the next eight months will do.

 

Global Citizen Year and Conserve School both helped me understand that exposure to the more difficult topics in life isn’t all about sadness, it is what creates passion and drive and changes teenagers from scrappy misfits into leaders. With the imperative mindset to place myself in the stretch zone, I am excited to have those hard conversations and come together as both a cohort and a family.

Emily Nelson