Growing up in the Bubble

“When you graduate you will leave the bubble.” “You live in a bubble.” “You will miss the bubble.”

During high school people in my community, especially teachers reminded me of the bubble. It took me two years of high school to understand what the bubble meant. I didn’t understand that the lifestyle we lived was far different than most of the world’s. Our lifestyle consisted of private tutors, SAT prep classes, million dollar houses and an average of two cars per household. A lifestyle that most people only saw in movies, that was our lifestyle. What was even more baffling was how 90% of my community lived that lifestyle.

Almost everyone I knew or came across in my high school had the latest iPhone and many of them had their own laptops. The bubble made us forget reality. As I would walk through hallways I would hear people talking about the new car their friend got or the one that their parents bought them. I would hear girls talk about their shopping spree at Brandy or Free People. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with any of that, but what is wrong, is to turn a blind eye to the rest of the world.

The bubble was so prominent that even the parents didn’t realize what was going on. Our community was about 80% Asian which led parents to believe that their kids were always safe and were always doing the right thing. Oh boy were they wrong. It doesn’t matter where you live, a teenager will be a teenager and I can assure you the parents lived in the same bubble as the rest of the community.

When I was choosing where to go to college, though I always thought of staying in California, I decided I wanted to leave California. I wanted to escape the bubble I grew up in. It sounds strange to want to leave a bubble of safety and perfection, but it was the best thing I did.

After joining college, I became involved in a program called the Dream Project. Dream Project was a group of college kids who mentored low income high schools to help high school students finish their education and look for post high school options. The first day we had a high school visit, I remember walking into a school that was the complete opposite of the environment I grew up in.

When the passing bell rang, the kids filled the hallways and the scene I saw was something I wasn’t accustomed to at all. People were swapping saliva in the middle of the hallway, girls who looked like they were freshman were pregnant, guys and girls were picking fights, and when it came time for classes to start 90% of them didn’t budge. Teachers had to beg their students to come to class, a scene I had never seen in my high school.

When we went into the classroom we were assigned there were about 15 students, keep in mind this was on the first day (as the weeks went by only about 8–10 came consistently to class). As I was assigned my mentees I was nervous because this was a completely different setting than I was aware of. As I got to know my mentees over the weeks, I was surprised, but I also felt an immense gratitude for my own upbringing. A lot of these students were the first in their family to ever attend high school. Almost all the kids I met had been working since they were 16. Many of them came from big families were money was tight, so naturally education was not the first priority. What surprised me the most, was most of these kids wanted an education and wanted to succeed, but they had so many other problems that it was very difficult for them to do that. At the end of my mentorship with them I was so proud of my mentees, both of them had applied to community college and were going to graduate that spring with the rest of their graduating high school class.

When I came back home that year for the holidays, as I drove through the familiar streets and saw the buildings that fostered my love for education and shaped me into the girl I had become, I understood what that bubble meant. I understood the bubble that every teacher I had come across talked about. I realized that even though I had a terrible high school experience, even though I struggled with the ideologies of my community, I was grateful for being in a community where education was such a priority. Where my community made me feel safe. A bubble in which I felt heard and important. A bubble where my family had the time to support me.

You are going to miss the bubble they said and back in high school I thought “I’m never going to miss this place”. The truth is I don’t miss high school but I have realized that bubble wasn’t about a place but rather a community. It was about certain ideologies and priorities. Leaving the bubble made me realize how lucky I am to have said I am from the Bay Area. A place where things like technology, STEM and education are prioritized and encouraged. A place where college is encouraged as a next step. A place that has given me the tools and resources to become the young woman I’m becoming today.

Thank you to “the bubble”.

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