I Live In A Bubble

Posted On: 04.21.10

i live in a bubble

(Apologies in advance. Because this post is unedited. These words will lack the telltale gloss I apply after composition. And maybe because of this, because of their tattered edges, they will be more real?)

I live in a bubble. A bubble full of fancy educations and success stories. Of fast cars and summer homes. Of big diamonds and tiny dogs. Of wealth and health.

I live in a bubble. And in this bubble, sleep is lost over private school admissions, SAT points, waist size, comment count, book sales, and broken iPhones. In this bubble, there is bartering of existential truths and bantering about insecurities.

I live in a bubble. And it is cozy and clean. It is my world. And I love it. It is what I know.

There is life outside my bubble. There are kids who are awakened in the night to the staccato of gunshots, to an avalanche of tears, to the breaking of hearts. There are kids who are given no chances, no opportunities, no snuggles. There are kids who are told they are dumb, dim-witted, good for nothing. There are kids who are lost, failed, trampled upon by broken families and systems and hopes.

I glimpsed this life and these kids at Community-Word’s Writing Our Future benefit at the National Arts Club last night. My new friend, the brilliant Michele Kotler, started Community-Word Project over ten years ago. A bit about this phenomenal organization:

Community~Word Project is dedicated to helping at-risk young people become critical and creative thinkers who are prepared for the challenges and opportunities they face in these rapidly changing times. We work in struggling communities in New York City, reaching young people in the one place they must be every day, the classroom. Community~Word Project residencies, which are at the heart of our work, transform those classrooms into learning environments where children are not taught what to think, but how to think, where young minds are not filled, but formed. Since our founding in 1997, Community~Word Project has served over 10,000 young people.

Now I have been to my fair share of charity events. But last night? It shook me. Woke me up. Made me see the outline of the bubble in which I reside.

The best part of last night was the kids. These kids stood up on stage and performed the poems they’d written. Poems about family and sky and laughter. And I sat there in the audience. With my newly highlighted hair. In my perfect black outfit. In my brand new shoes. Clutching my designer bag and iPhone.

In my bubble.

But I sat there. And I listened. To the words that carried my way. Words spoken by young voices. Exquisite words. Words that smacked of struggle and salvation. Of life and love and longing.

These words pierced the bubble. They found me. Burrowed into my consciousness. I don’t want them to leave.

As I walked outside into the April air, I saw them. The limos. Waiting for those young kids on their big night. Michele told me this would happen. That it was important that these kids felt extra special on their big night. I hope they did.

And now. I am home. In my picturesque neighborhood. Facing a busy day in my bubble. I must get Toddler to her amazing Preschool. And then take Baby to her gymnastics class. And then I must race to the Museum of Natural History for the Spring Environmental Luncheon. And then I must hightail it to my new home to accept delivery of our new kitchen. Then it’s time to prepare to for my Happier Hour.

I live in a bubble.

In this bubble, I feel fortunate. That freedom surrounds me. That opportunities hover. That I am here. Not there.

I live in a bubble

In this bubble, I feel guilty. That freedom surrounds me. That opportunities hover. That I am here. Not there.

And so gratitude and guilt mingle in me. Awareness alights. This morning. Every morning, I hope.

Because there’s one thing worse than living in a bubble: Being blind to the bubble.

Thank you, Michele. For shaking me. For waking me. For training my eye on my own exquisite bounty. For reminding me that words and sentences and thoughts are not givens. They are profound privileges bequeathed by good teachers and good people. Like you. People who honor the voices and visions beyond that bubble in which so many of us, too many of us, hide. I look forward to getting even more involved with Community-Word going forward.

____________________________________

  • Do you live in a bubble? What does your bubble look like?
  • Over the years, has anything or anyone woken you up to the reality of what you have?
  • Do you ever feel guilty about your good fortune?
  • Do you think existential bubbles exist because we create them and refuse to pop them? Or are they inevitable by-products of entrenched inequalities?
  • Do you find that sometimes your unedited words and thoughts contain the most truth?
  • Do you agree with Sarah of Momalom in her sentiment that “Life is unedited, why shouldnt I be from time to time?”
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28 Comments for: "I Live In A Bubble"
  1. kat

    From growing up in Westchester, I definitely know what you mean. For me what’s worst is not just feeling guilty about it, but how easy it is to become jaded with your own bubble, forget how extra-ordinary (in the literal sense of the word) it is.
    I’ve never gotten too involved with a charity, but my parents did have me start doing community service types of trips when I was young, and for me traveling in general still shakes me out of that bubble. I’m glad that you have found a way to do this for yourself as well, and to give back! So many people don’t even try, they’re fine with the bubble thing.
    Something I read once in a Philip Roth book said that for those of us who have this freedom and fortune, most of our problems end up being ones we create ourselves. I try to remember that to help me keep my own “problems” in perspective.

  2. I live in a bubble now but have had that bubble popped before and had to re-build it. I know that the outside can be rough and can pop the bubble again at any time. I don’t feel guilty about the bubble but do want my children to know that it can be removed and not usually by us but by outside circumstances.

  3. Let us not forget the words of JFK: “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.”

  4. I don’t live in a bubble, though I’ve tasted it. I feel guilty about my bad fortune, because I cannot do for my kids what they deserve.

  5. Eva

    Yes! Life is unedited, and it’s refreshing and endearing to see you unedited too. (Plus, your unedited is pretty darn polished!)

  6. I am in a bubble, but I wasn’t always here. Having just read “What is the What?” (about the Lost Boys of Sudan) it has been forefront in my mind lately that everyone’s definition of a bubble differs greatly. And it makes me at once utterly grateful for and terribly guilty about mine.

  7. You’re right. It is important to step outside of our bubbles and recognize that not everyone is so fortunate. And appreciating the privilege we have is a critical component of being a relatable and compassionate person. But what does it really accomplish to step outside of our bubble if the net result is just to step back into it with renewed gratitude for our creature comforts? “Wow, I really have it easy” may be an important realization, but if it’s not acted upon then it’s pointless. I’m as guilty as the next person here. And I constantly have to remind myself that all the knowledge in the world doesn’t mean a thing if it doesn’t influence the way we act.

  8. Want to trade bubbles…? 😉

  9. Yes, I live in a suburban bubble. I try very hard not to be blind to what’s outside my bubble and sometimes that does cause me to feel guilty for what I have in life. Then there are days when I want to retreat inside my bubble because that’s where I feel safe and secure the most. I believe that we create our own bubbles for ourselves and our children.

    When you’re finished trading bubbles with Beth wanna trade with me?

  10. You shouldn’t feel guilty about living in a bubble. Life isn’t fair. It never has been and it never will be. The question is whether you are aware of life outside of the bubble and whether you give back.

    Giving back is meaningful and significant. It is something that I talk to my kids about. When my oldest was born I was making about 40% more than I do now. Things were easy.

    Things changed and it became less easy. We’re not anywhere close to poor, but we’re not anywhere close to rich as my circle would define it.

    No problem.

    To me giving back just means that we take some time out to try and help make the world a bit kinder and or nicer. The nature of how to do that is up to the individual.

    All I want is for my children to appreciate their good fortune and to understand that many people doing a little can a difference for a lot.

  11. D

    In my job, I am constantly struck by the circumstances from which both my defendants and my victims hail. There are the people who seemingly have it all (and handed to them) who seek every opportunity to cheat. There are the people who have grown up and live in impossible circumstances and lead lives of crime and desperation. And then those who are victimized who you would expect to be angry and bitter about their difficult lives and what’s happened to them. And they just aren’t. They are positive and making the best of their situations and working hard to make it better for their kids. Every time I meet someone like this, and it happens more often than not, I am reminded how lucky I am in my own life and how grateful I am for all that I have. And remembering my bubble, I am emboldened to fight even harder for these people that inspire me.

  12. First off, this made me laugh, probably because it’s true: ‘Of big diamonds and tiny dogs.’

    Secondly, this sounds like an amazing organization, and I know exactly what you mean about bubbles. We all live in our own world with our own problems, and we all need to look up every now and again and see what’s really going on…not far from our homes, our secure walls, our schools, etc. Thank you for the reminder.

  13. I become aware of the bubble every time I read an article or see a news broadcast about poverty, natural disasters in other places, women’s rights (or lack thereof) around the world, etc. There is so much sadness out there, but also so much hope. To shrink the bubble, I think we must all contribute to expanding the hope in our own small, yet collective ways.

  14. Liz

    Aidan, here’s what I love about you:
    I love that I can read about your Manhattan life and your encounters with Dave Matthews and Martha Stewart, and oooooooze with envy and awe. Sometimes, reading your blog is like flipping through a glossy fashion magazine. And then, I love that I can read about your honesty, your worries, your concerns, your just-like-the-rest-of-us-stuff. And THEN, I love that you do not hide your bubble…that you are aware of it….but that you do not, in any way, ever come across as what a lot of big diamond/tiny dog people might be like…there is never any “I am more privileged than you all”-ness in your words.

  15. that last line says it all lady. Your heart is what keeps you out of your bubble while you are still gratefully in it. I love this post. And you.

  16. kim

    Sometimes life bursts your bubble for you.

    Then there comes an exquisite revelation of how lovely the bubble was, and how completely you took your former circumstances for granted.

    With that knowledge, however, there can be an intense feeling of gratitude for all that remains.

    And there is freedom in knowing that you have been able to find a way to exist outside of your lush and lovely bubble home. You become more compassionate toward those who’ve never known the softness of a bubbly existence. You feel more REAL, with no protective iridescent film between you and the harsh reality of the world.

    How fortunate that you, Aidan, are not blind to the filmy walls of your bubble, as so many of us are, or were. Because those ephemeral spheres can become comfortable prisons that prevent us from reaching out to those beyond their silky boundaries.

    It is much better to break out of a bubble than to have it burst for you.

    Today I wrote about brave women who’ve been through the latter. And lived to tell about it:

    http://kimarnoldblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/survivors.html

    Looking forward to your book.

  17. tara

    The funny thing about this bubble-thing for me, is that my physical bubble is so very different than my mental bubble. For instance, I live amongst very affluent people, but can’t (or won’t, haven’t decided yet) allow myself to feel that like one of them. It’s not that I even know for sure in what way I want to be different, but something in me can’t be “them”. But on the other hand, I don’t want to live anywhere else. As I’m typing this, I’m struck with the notion that it may be an inferiorty complex of some sort. None-the-less, my bubbles are conflicted, and coming to terms with these conflictions seems a rite of passage of sorts, and I’m actually enjoying the process of self-discovery. Great topic, Aidan. I’m consistently impressed by your readers words/thoughts as well. Truly enjoying your blog! Have a great Wednesday!

  18. I grew up like those kids you watched on stage. It’s hard, bleak, and oftentimes stifling. But there are moments of amazing strength and courage — like when someone takes a personal, nurturing interest in a child society has already counted out. That’s what I do now to pay homage to the adults who did it for me.

    It’s also a great way to keep your bubble from forming blinders.

  19. I never had the chance to live in a bubble- I’ve always stood on the outside, watched the bubbles carry the beautiful people to their beautiful world apart.

    I’ve lived without regret, given more than I’ve ever gotten. Loved without holding back, climbed mountains and hiked dusty trails to dirty campsites. I’ve sheltered my Rwandan sister, given her and her family my grocery money when I couldn’t afford to- because it bought them safety.

    My life is rough around the edges, frayed like worn out clothes and ragged like calloused hands. I’ve scrapped for a living, worked three jobs to provide for my daughter and wondered what it would be like to be inside a house with shutters and a tidy front lawn in any capacity other than that of the hired maid.

    The line between the bubble and the outside world is a fragile one. Your gift is that you see the bubble. To most, it is invisible.

    Life is beautiful. It is meant to be lived out loud- enjoyed to capacity and overflowed. You’ve worked hard for the life that you have, for the opportunities you’ve created and those you’ve been given. Cherish this, and the knowledge you have gained. Make a difference right where you are, where you live- because you can.

    As to editing- sometimes raw is the closest we get to real.

  20. I have my bubble; I know just how lucky I am. But even in my bubbly existence, I was woken one morning by the screams of a woman with a gun to her head. The bubble never quite feels safe again. It feels, like a soap bubble, fragile.

  21. Aidan, I can relate to your raw and real words. My husband taught at an inner-city school years ago and I remember being shocked by the stories I heard and how I saw some of the kids behave. Years later, I volunteered at a battered women’s shelter and again, saw how lucky I was/am to be in a bubble. These experiences are so important and can be life-changing, I think. The women and girls and human rights advocacy work that I do is fueled by some of these so-called bubble-bursting experiences I had years ago. So many of us are blessed and yet so many others have next to nothing. And yet, the human spirit, with very little help, can thrive in the worst situations. Thank you for writing about this.

  22. Unedited can be beautiful too, can’t it? Sometimes, I find, even more beautiful because it is so true. Raw. Real. Like devotion.

    I don’t know that I live in a bubble. Most times I feel like I am too clued in to the outside that I can’t even focus on the inside. That I’m too busy popping all the bubbles around me that I cannot even insulate myself or this family long enough to feel protected from the rest of the struggle that exists around me.

    Aidan, this is, for me, quite an exemplary post from you. I think that your life is so very different from my own that it has, at times, been difficult to connect. But it’s all based on words, isn’t it? Our words and nothing more. And I realize that it’s just not enough–the words–to really know anything at all. But this post, unedited, is a stop-and-think kind of post. About you and about all of us. What kind of life are we living? What do we wish, dream and strive for?

    I like you everyday, but reading the unedited you today was exactly what I needed to read. Thank you.

    And I do hope your second Happier Hour is even happier than the first. Maybe someday I’ll make a trip to the city to join you. Is it ok if I don’t have new shoes? 🙂

  23. What a great post. Sure, I live in a bubble. Because I know I am blessed and fortunate and I have not faced REAL adversity in my life. And I love my bubble too. But one reason I love living in LA is that my bubble gets popped around many corners on any given day. You perhaps feel that way in NYC too? I live in a nice, safe neighborhood but it wouldn’t take me long to round a corner and encounter poor lost souls struggling and facing a VERY different day than mine. I need an edge to my bubble to keep me happy. I have often said my happiness is tied to living in a diverse, urban center so I can have as much chance as possible to bounce around and have my bubble popped over and over again. It keeps me feeling alive and connected to the world. You know? Some people cling to their bubble. I need to get out of my bubble to feel like I’m living the life I want to.

    And this experience of which you speak? Where you are shaken to your core and a real shift occurs? Yes. I have had that experience. And I have tried to hold on to it fiercely. I don’t think I have succeeded. Because to succeed would mean that I would have experienced a real lasting shift in my daily perception. And that is tough to have happen. The lasting effect.

    Am I rambling? Making ANY sense at all?

    My bubble bed is calling me.

    🙂

    Great great post.

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  25. Yes, I live in a bubble. But I like the safety and security of my bubble. The key, as you so eloquently point out, is being able to see beyond your bubble.

  26. Just wanted to pipe in to tell you I admire your honesty here, Aidan.

    xo elizabeth

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