Balconies are the only architectural structure I know of that can immediately fool you into thinking that you have the socioeconomic status of a character on Gossip Girl.
You can look out your at-least-second story window all you want, but it will never give you the same feeling of superiority as opening a door and walking outside on a railed ledge built off of your house, peering down on those less fortunate while the condensation on your wine glass drips on their heads like unexpected rain.
(Ok so I don’t have a balcony per se…but my friend Kaitlin does and she lives right down the street, so I’m nobility by association.)
We rule the cul de sac with grace, humility, and summer spritzers, sharing stories with each other about what’s happened in our side of the kingdom since the last time we got together (never minding that basically every other house in the cul de sac has a third story balcony, nor that no one in the cul de sac actually presides under our rule).
We feel like royalty, and that’s the goal.
Because once the drinks are gone and our stories are shared, we descend the throne and return to the graduate peasantry.
This poverty, in small part, is defined by absence of money, but is more largely defined by an absence of knowledge. We beg for it and borrow it every day, but own so little ourselves.
How do we even begin to save it, let alone invest it in some unimaginable future good? As usual, those remain the mysteries of the rich. They try to help by hosting lectures and presentations and conferences, and we try to capture it by ferociously typing on our Macbooks.
But usually, we’re just humbled.
(“Humbled” is religious-speak for discouraged).
This September will be my twentieth year in school. Twenty years of learning small pieces of what humanity has discovered about the universe, and now I’m finally being asked to contribute something myself. And for someone who carries with them a good amount of religious guilt, both helpful and unhelpful, not only must I contribute to the realm of knowledge, but I have to do so in a way that advances the Kingdom of God on Earth.
Easy enough, right?
Now that I’m constantly surrounded by intellectuals and academics, these goals seem harder than ever. In graduate school or not, it’s hard at the age of twenty-three not to feel young, ignorant, and behind.
So what do we do?
To be honest, I drink—on a balcony with my friend, and we forget, and laugh, and dream all afternoon long. We create a world where the pressures of proving ourselves are faded memories instead of forefront thoughts. A world where we’ve made such an impact that the people have elected us as King and Queen of their cul de sac, so we can finally rest—if only for a moment—in the work we’ve done thus far. A world where we’ve finally made it, even though we’ve only made it up.
Michael Kelly (’14) graduated from Calvin College with a double major in psychology and writing. Shortly after graduating, he began his graduate level study of educational research, measurement, and evaluation at Boston College. When he is not studying learning and teaching, Michael learns and teaches through stories and writing—fiction and nonfiction, comedy and tragedy, and everything else in between.