Dear Elmhurst, it’s the New Girl

December 24, 2018

Dear Elmhurst, you’re starting to look like a glorious snow globe. You’re perfectly detailed, from the storefronts lined with garlands and slathered with snowflakes on the windows.  Your beautiful lit tree floats in a Winter Wonderland that is born out from the fountain your happy, smiling children played in. Sometimes, the atmosphere shakes gently and snow tumbles through the brisk air, coating you with a blanket of pure white. Your people knock on the wreathed doors of their childhood best friends that have lived on the same block their whole lives.

But Elmhurst, I’m not one of the people in your happy little snow globe. I don’t knock on my best friend’s door. Rather, I’m watching you from my reality, a little void between worlds encased by snow globes. I look with envy on your happy little scenes and lifelong memories. You sit perched like an idol on a mantel, and I can see you, but I can’t step through the glass. I’m stuck on the outside, clutching something I can’t seem to be a part of.

See Elmhurst, once upon a time I was in my own snow globe. I made warm peanut butter cookies on cold days religiously with my age-old best friend. In fifth grade, I took the dare to saucer down the snow-covered dam.  Both the scar on my leg and the icicle dripped tree I hit regret making that decision. I ran through a snow-covered forest with the track team that had held me up through every breakdown. We took the best Instagram boomerangs in the clearings, devoting more time and energy to that than the tempo run we were supposed to be doing. The holidays were happy, warm, and filled with those who I loved, just like your little snow globe Elmhurst.

I picked the perfect gifts for Secret Santa in my journalism class. One year I made someone hysterically laugh for ten whole minutes. The next year, I made someone cry with gratefulness. I’d known them so well for so long in the Fairfax, Virginia snow globe I’d lived in up until this holiday season.

Now, I don’t have a single clue what to get for my journalism Secret Santa.   

It’s funny, how the same exchange can churn up such a variety of emotions. For the seniors, it’s a bittersweet final round of a tradition. For the underclassmen, it’s a treasure. With so many publications due dates coming, it’s still unanimously worth it to spend a class planning the exchange and hanging up the stockings that go along with it. For the teachers, it’s a fun-filled event amidst the end of semester stress. They’re worried it might cost too much, so they tell us that making pictures, memes, and poems the person would love would be just as heartwarming of a gift. I don’t disagree, but I can’t quite do that.

For me, this Secret Santa is a heart-wrenching experience, a cruel reminder that everyone else lives in the same little Elmhurst snow globe. It’s a reminder that my snow globe is shattered somewhere else, littered with every inside joke I’ve ever had. It’s a reminder of the memories I once had and the memories here I never shared. It’s the full knowledge that no one will ever know to get me what Jadyn Spradlin did. See, she was my journalism partner in crime, bound to be the Managing Editor to my Editor in Chief our senior year. She got me a wreath with a paper cut out of a sickle clipped to it, weaved with dental floss. It was a reminder of the eighth-grade yearbook we were in charge of, a headline pun that made us legends, and a 2 a.m. discovery of a Suite Life of Zack and Cody song we could both sing perfectly.

This Secret Santa is a reminder that no one in this snow globe will ever understand that joke. It’s a reminder that everyone who read this far was probably very confused by that comment. Only my broken snow globe could ever provide a haven that understood it.

So Elmhurst, I can’t quite break into your snow globe. Your glass has been made strong by a community so tight-knit there isn’t quite room. That’s so admirable, Elmhurst, but don’t ignore everyone else.

Dukes, many of you have known each other since elementary school. It’s logical that you tend to stray towards the familiar faces from your block, your middle school, or your Eagles sports teams from long ago. But don’t pack up your precious group of friends with a tight ribbon. And remember, there’s a difference between being open to new friends, and taking the initiative to welcome them and not being okay with letting them watch from the outside. To those of you who forced me to hang out with you, thank you.

York, don’t try to shove Monocle Nation, bleed green down the throats of those still choking on the loss of, in my case, Bruin Nation and bleeding purple. Don’t invite out of state transfers to counselor meetings boasting about what your school has. Their snow globe just shattered and slit them with glass; tend their wounds. Not even my counselor acknowledged me in the halls my first week at York. And York, you have so few out of state transfers, it wouldn’t be that hard to check on the broken-hearted students instead of holding your school up as an idol grieving students should feel lucky to be a part of. I can assure you, clad in my purple and gold Lake Braddock track gear, the last thing in the world I wanted was a word art worthy T-Shirt that said Dukes. The first thing in the world I needed was for someone to invite me to a football game or a coffee shop.

Anyone who feels like you’re holding a snow globe, like you’ve been shaking it desperately but it just settles to the same scene you aren’t a part of, somewhere out there, there’s your snow globe. Maybe it’s small. Maybe it’s massive, in some huge city hundreds of miles away from your suburban life. Maybe it’s filled with golden retriever puppies. Maybe it’s not snowy at all, and it’s on a beach somewhere far enough away to start again.  Maybe it’s simple. Maybe it’s extravagant. In mine, I have a Secret Santa Exchange where I know what to get for people and people know what to get for me. But whatever it is, it’s yours and it’s there. I promise.

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