Bursting the Dana Bubble

We’ve all heard it before: Dana provides a safe and nurturing environment that allows students to take risks and make mistakes with in a loving and supportive environment. Although this is true, there are limits as to how far we can truly step out of our comfort zone because it’s so easy to back out and simply rely on all the resources around us to get us through any challenge. As I will be graduating very soon, I’m worried that I will find it harder to succeed once I leave because I’ve become too dependent on this community’s support.

When I arrived in the US, from England, at the beginning of eighth grade, my first day at Dana was very overwhelming. It was immediately obvious that the close social network was a very important part of daily life at Dana. On top of the usual stresses of starting a new school, such as finding my locker and settling into my classes, I felt behind because I couldn’t remember the names of all the students in the middle school like the other girls could. Every teacher welcomed me so personally that I couldn’t keep track of everyone I was being introduced to. In order to be a part of Dana, I felt I had to know everyone’s name and have a close, sisterly relationship with them. This is the nature of the “Dana bubble”: Everyone knows everyone else intimately, and there is always someone there to help. In just a few weeks I, too, had become part of Dana’s safe and comforting community.

In ninth grade, I found myself falling into a routine. I saw the same faces everyday and felt a little too…at home. School should be a place for students to be challenged and find something that they are passionate about, and sometimes I wondered if my relationship with the school were becoming too personal, distracting me from what I was really here to do. I tried to challenge myself sophomore year by taking a risk and enrolling in honors chemistry. Even though it was certainly a challenging class, science lab was just down the hall, where a teacher was available to make everything better for me when I was panicking over my uncertainty about gravimetric analysis. Although the extra help saved me from falling behind, the truth is that I felt like other people were solving my problems for me.

This is one of the main reasons why I decided to take advantage of Dana’s offering to spend a semester at the High Mountain Institute (HMI), a school in Leadville, Colorado that includes a total of six weeks of backpacking. Going there was something I would never have had the option of doing if I hadn’t moved here from England, and I felt that I needed a change of scene from the easier, more familiar daily life at Dana. This is by far the biggest risk I’ve taken in my four years of high school, and much bigger than the challenging choices I’ve made, including taking honors and AP classes, and auditioning for Chamber Singers despite multiple rejections. In comparison to Dana, HMI provided me with the opportunity to truly fail at something, and to learn from that experience. While this doesn’t sound like fun, it opened my eyes to the fact that there won’t always be someone there to help me and that I need to learn how to be responsible for my own work and progress.

In the depths of the forest, in the mountains that overlook Leadville, Colorado, there were plenty of opportunities for me to learn from my mistakes, and often these mistakes had more serious consequences than a bad grade. Failing to secure our food resulted in a visit from a hungry animal; careless navigation extended a hike by over three miles. These errors made me feel a more real sense of responsibility for the first time. My close relationships with my teachers and classmates make Dana a loving, supportive community that I’ve enjoyed, but sharing my food with animals and feeling the pain in my back after an extra-long day of hiking showed me that I won’t always succeed.

Now that I have spent the last year and a half back in the “Dana bubble,” I have readjusted to the ease of constant support around me. I will graduate feeling that I will succeed at anything I want to, but also knowing that I didn’t made it to the end of my senior year alone. Many people helped me reach this finish line, scooping me up if ever I was failing at something and supporting me until I succeeded.

The truth is that failure is inevitable. It’s easy at Dana to rely on other people’s help, but at HMI I learned that, in order to succeed, I had to rely on myself. Though the Dana bubble is a safe and nurturing environment, I have been too dependent on its security over the past five years. It will be hard to leave Dana because of the amazing people who have helped me since my arrival on that first day in eighth grade. In less than one month, I will no longer have their support surrounding me, making the thought of the real world a scary concept to face.

Comments are closed.