Home Alone scared the shit out of me as a little kid. The idea that people would intentionally break into your house to cause you harm was not one that appealed to me, and for a whole year after seeing it I would always ask my mom go double check that she’d locked the doors after I’d gone to bed. And even then sometimes I would sit up in bed, afraid that someone might come in through the window, or go tiptoe downstairs to go check the doors myself.
I had all but forgotten this aspect of my childhood until a few days ago when Katy, the co-editor-in-chief of the fine newspaper that you see before you, first texted me to invite me to write a Viewpoint piece for the senior issue. Katy and I had become friends this past Fall because she was housemates with two of my closest friends, Natalie Hummel and Berit Rasmussen. The three of them lived in Nason House with Cecilia Kryzda and Taylor Yeracaris, and since I lived next door in Scott, I would go over there all the time. Often unannounced. I’d be sitting at home procrastinating (my default state) and would think that maybe it’d be more fun to procrastinate with friends. I’d walk over, check quickly through the window of the living room to make sure Natalie or Berit was there, knock on the door, and ask if they wanted to study together.
You have to understand that I am a very anxious person, and knocking on someone’s door unannounced was not an easy thing for me. I worried about whether they were just letting me in to be polite, about whether they were secretly thinking about how annoying it was that I’d just come over, about how it was so irritating that I didn’t even ask first. The first time I’d done it though, they had gushed about how nice and neighborly it was, and how it’s so great that we lived so close and could just do that. So I just kept at it. But I didn’t stop being anxious about it.
And then one day I was walking over and forgot to peek in to see if Natalie or Berit were there, and when I knocked, Katy answered the door.
“Oh, hey,” I said.
“Hey,” she said. “Berit and Natalie aren’t here right now.”
“But you should come in and hang out with us!”
I looked past her to see Taylor and Cecilia sitting at the wooden kitchen table that comes standard with every Carleton townhouse. “Yoni!” Cecilia yelled. Taylor waved.
“Ok,” I said.
After that, I don’t think I ever checked the window again. I’d come over and it didn’t really matter anymore who was around. If Katy or Cecilia were there we’d talk about music or interesting figures of speech that we may have heard someone use. If Taylor was there we’d talk about whether the universe was just one big algorithm. With any of them we’d make references to the supernatural, because they’d named their house Witch House, because that’s the kind of people they are.
At some point in the term someone made a joke about wishing they could just give me OneCard access to their house so they didn’t have to get up to open the door. I remember saying something similar, about how it would be so much easier if I could just let my friends swipe into my house so that whenever they needed to borrow something and I wasn’t home they could just go get it even if I wasn’t home. And then I remember, for an unrealistic moment, thinking how it would be cool if we could just leave the door unlocked.
It wasn’t until Katy messaged me the other day though, that I was reminded of that initial childhood fear. This person who, when I really stopped to think about it, I haven’t known very long at all, was reaching out to ask a favor of me, and I didn’t feel like it was intrusive or asking too much of me. I was happy to do that for her. And I thought it was so special that I had lived in a place where I could be so open to letting people into my life. Where I could meet people who would make me believe so strongly in the goodness of others that I’d want to break down all the barriers that separated us from one another.
And now, as we finish our time at Carleton, that’s the gift that I hope to take with me to whatever comes after. Maybe I’ll never be in a place again where I can save my spot at the dining hall with my wallet without a second thought. Or walk over to knock on a friend’s door late at night when I feel sad or alone. But that lesson that Carleton has taught me firsthand, of the joy of believing in others, of living a life where our first instinct is to love and to welcome people into our homes and our lives, that is what I take with me from Carleton. I hope you will too.