[Casey's Note] The Bubble Isn't Enough

My parents wouldn't let me have a car my freshman year of college. It only bothered me the first week. After that, I quickly found that college campuses are pretty autonomous. Even now, I hear the phrase "Millsaps bubble" tossed around more frequently than "homework" or "essay," but back then it didn't bother me. Seniors complain about getting trapped in this so-called bubble. They worry about never leaving and feeling too provincial.

I didn't care then. A bubble sounded safe and, plus, everything I needed was at Millsaps: parties, meals, books, the Internet. Whenever I did leave campus (thanks to my lovely car-lending roommate), I only ventured out to chain stores I recognized from home like Barnes and Noble, with the occasional local-color trip to Cups. I knew nothing about local politics, which essentially were affecting me without my knowledge. I felt happy enough, though.

Chances are, most incoming freshmen this year will feel the same way. But, let's face it. The cafeteria can only serve about 10 different combinations of meals. You can't buy everything at the campus bookstore. Frats bring in those same bad cover bands to every other party. You see the same non-dateable boys and girls every day. And even education can get monotonous. The Venus of Willendorf is amazing, but after seeing it 30 times the night before your big art history test, it ceases to evoke any emotion.

Eventually, you just feel stifled.

But is the city any more interesting than your all-too-familiar dorm room? It may seem like Jackson has nothing to offer you. After all, we don't have the apparent hustle and bustle of New York City or even Austin or Athens. Famous bands rarely make their way into our city for concerts. Indie movies tend to skip right over our theaters. It's true: We're missing tons of the elements that usually work to qualify a city as "cool." What I've found in the last three years, though, is that we have plenty of other advantages to fill those voids.

When Fondren hosts its Art Walks (ahem, go for the free wine and beer, if nothing else), all of these cool people come out of the woodwork. North State Street fills up just about as quickly and nicely as Broadway, and those little boutiques are as classy (and pricey) as others in bigger cities. And who needs famous bands, anyway? We have more local bands than even I, a self-proclaimed music guru, know what do with.

GoodmanCOUNTY may be better than Ryan Adams. The Rockwells certainly put Fountains of Wayne to shame with their tunes about loving older women, and Kamikaze's flows are just as catchy as Lil Jon's.

I've still got my complaints, but there are individuals and groups in Jackson working to improve it every day. When an indie movie hits Memphis and New Orleans, bypassing Jackson completely, people like the Fahrenheit 601 group (fahrenheit601.com) fire up petitions and the phone lines until something is done. I'd love for the Met to be within walking distance, but a trip over to Gallery 119 or Nunnery's is pretty breath-taking, too. Jackson artists are so prolific and innovative that they're even creating galleries in seemingly anachronistic places (take, for example, Ellen Langford, who recently filled up the fitness salon G2 with her beautiful works).

This city is teeming with life and excellence. You just have to be willing to leave your campus to find it. My big-buck education has taught me plenty. I can speak French fluently, discuss Post-Colonial literature eloquently and even solve Cal II problems adequately (well, kind of). But most of what I apply daily to my life, most of what makes me feel really intelligent and informed and passionate, most of the things that challenge me every day are lessons that I've learned from Jacksonians that I've met over the last four years. Plenty of my professors and other Millsaps students have contributed to this, but I've witnessed and experienced so much creativity and (com)passion outside of there, too.

It's hard at first to just go out and become a part of all of that. If you're under 21, there's a limit on where you can actually go to meet people from other campuses. Coffee houses are an OK start, but who really has the guts to just interrupt someone mid-java sip?

I don't know if this works for everyone, but I know that once I just started showing up, nervously at first, to things I read about in the JFP, I eventually started meeting people. Having a job off campus forced me to interact with people (and made my parents decide to let me have the car after all). When I still noticed voids in what I thought might make Jackson a livable city, I just started working with these new friends to fill these voids. The thing about Jackson is that even if people are too afraid to start activities themselves, they'll most likely participate if you do.

College, like anything, is what you make of it. You can worry more about perfect grades than happiness, and you'll probably still survive.

Finding a balance between school and real life is a better form of education, though. At this point, I'm realizing that just about anything can count as education. Everything that I've learned and experienced outside of school has been just as useful and a hell of a lot cheaper.

Casey Parks edited the 2004 Annual Manual. She is a senior at Millsaps College and a founder of the Collective. Starting with this issue, Casey is also the assistant editor of the Jackson Free Press.

Previous Comments


yep. and congrats :)



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