Editorial Notebook

Distance separates life

Attending school far from home affects one’s views

Many students at RPI are not local students; they are not from anywhere close to Troy. I, myself, am from Michigan; I’ve made friends with people from all over the country—people who call far-off states like Alabama, Colorado, Texas, Washington, and even California home. Coming from somewhere so far away, I rarely get to visit home, which has led to a phenomenon in my mental state that I refer to as the “distance dichotomy.”

Now, I’m not saying this applies to every out-of-state student here. I don’t even know if anyone else has noticed this happening to them. But if you have, you understand where I’m coming from. The “distance dichotomy” is simply the tendency I’ve noticed in myself to exclude or forget about my home life while at RPI, and my RPI life while at home.

This compartmentalization makes a bit of sense—after all, isn’t it better to focus on RPI while here, and not let things 600 miles away at home distract me? It is … to a point. However, what if I want to keep up-to-date on what happens at home? What if I want to stay in touch with my friends, my family? I can’t just let them be replaced by the new people I’ve met here at school, no matter how fun or interesting those people might be.

On the other side, forgetting about RPI while at home is even more of an unattractive prospect. On longer breaks, such as over winter or summer, I run into the same problem of wanting to keep in touch. But in ignoring RPI, I also run the risk of missing something big like an edit to the school’s policy or changes in the faculty and other staff (which RPI isn’t exactly known for going to great lengths to inform the students of anyway). Over Thanksgiving or Spring Breaks, I could miss important information from my classes, or from other activities I’m involved with on campus.

And yet, the distance dichotomy persists.

Is it just a bad habit I need to break myself of? Am I just inherently bad at keeping up-to-date with current events of places other than where I am right now, or keeping in touch with distant friends? Or does this affect more people than just me?

At times I feel almost like a secret agent, living a double life. While I’m here at RPI, I’m James the Computer Science major, the junior, the newspaper editor and Magic: The Gathering player. But at home, I’m James the Second, the eldest son who’s rarely home. My groups of friends, my daily activities, even my sleeping habits, are completely different between the two. I am two different people in one body, or caught between a dream and the real world with no way to distinguish between them.

So how do I deal with the distance dichotomy? How do I merge both of my separate lives into one contiguous whole?

Well, the obvious answer is to make more of an effort. Keep in touch with people at home while I’m at school, and with people at RPI while I’m at home. Even with my dislike of Facebook and its ilk, this is incredibly easy through things like e-mail, Skype, and my cell phone. Even Steam, with its chat client, can let me talk to people when I’m not busy gaming.

So I suppose the solution to my problem is to be less of a lazy bones and try not to forget that there’s another half to my life, distant as it may be.