Hey guys, it’s Isabel. You know how sometimes you get certain lenses based on certain experiences you have, where you start noticing one particular thing everywhere? The first big time this happened to me was when I was first learning about derivatives in calculus. Once I learned about them, I started seeing them everywhere, in the frequency and volume of sirens on police cars going by, in the rate at which the train conductor was accelerating down the aisle towards me, in the amount of dilation in people’s eyes as they were talking to me and shifting their eyes around to focus on different things in a room. I couldn’t stop noticing derivatives everywhere.

Recently I have been acquiring a lot of similar lenses and have been noticing a ton of new things about this school (and life in general, I suppose) that I never even thought to observe consciously before.

Right now I am going through the Intro to Economics textbook so that by the time I take my first Honors Seminar in the fall, International Political Economy, I am able to keep up, because I haven’t taken any Economics classes before. So I have been going through this textbook, and am slowly realizing that one reason the study of economics is so intriguing is because you can start to see almost every interaction between humans as a transaction. Friendship is transactional, social networking is transactional (if you write “Happy Birthday!” on my wall, I feel obligated to do the same for you on your birthday, etc.), tours are even transactional. I give you information about the school, and in return you are forced to laugh at my ridiculous jokes and warn me when I am about to trip over things and fall on my face. So that’s one lens.

I also got another lens the other day when I was giving a tour to a group of blind students who came to campus. I was a little nervous about the tour at first because I was worried that I would make tons of accidental verbal slippages where I would say things like “As you can see on the right…”, “If you look, that building over there is the Political Science building…” etc. But I hopefully didn’t commit too many faux pas. I did slip up once when describing some of the annual events on campus (“So there’s this really fun thing called Screw Your Roommate where you set your roommate up on a blind date…”) but otherwise I don’t think there were many facepalms.

Anyway, the point is, the whole time I was trying to envision how one of these students might be imagining this campus based on what I was telling them without actually being able to see it. In their mind, how close was the picture I was painting to the actual campus?

The group noticed a lot of things about our campus that I never even thought of before. When the group walked into the library, one person remarked how much it smelled like old books there. And he was right! It’s something I don’t usually notice consciously when I walk into the library because I’m too focused on the feeling of the wave of air conditioning hitting you or the things I am seeing visually. Later that day, when I walked into the Co-Op, which is a shopping cooperative in town where you can get organic groceries, I really started to consciously notice the barrage of new smells that hits you when you walk in the door. I could probably navigate the whole store and find what I wanted to buy just based on sniffing it out. The smells were so different from, say, the Target I went to later, which has a very definitive plasticky, artificial smell which I would probably hate if smell was the only sense I had, but since I have all these other senses I can focus on, I can mask the discomfort of the artificial smell by putting other sensory observations in the forefront of my brain.

When we took the elevator down to the first floor of Parrish, there was a student who was playing the piano in Parrish Parlors and all of the students seemed to light up at the sound of the piano music. I had always appreciated the piano in Parrish Parlors, but it took on a whole new meaning when I was able to realize how much more welcoming it must be to hear those sounds when sound itself is that much more important to you. When I took the group into a hall with dorm rooms, they went right in and started feeling things out and putting the room together in their minds.

In short, I was really glad I took this awesome group of students on a tour because they made me think about the school and my everyday surroundings in a new way. It’s difficult to imagine how they experienced the school because I’m so used to interpreting the world visually but I’m glad they came because that’s not something I normally try to do or think about. These kids were also just really full of life and unendingly curious about the different things around them.

So hopefully when you come on campus you’ll introduce new and exciting lenses to me and I hope I do the same for you!


One thought on “Lenses

  1. Awesome article, Isabel! I experienced a similar lens shift after spending two weeks, 1-on-1, with a group of young adults with Down’s syndrome. We should chat about it.

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