Back in the Office

Though I have fared well over the last year of online classes, returning to Dickinson’s campus has been a real joy. The chance to see friends, wander through Carlisle, and live away from home again have all been a reminder of those mundane ways that online college cannot replace campus life. 

Perhaps the activity I was most excited for, though, was The Dickinsonian, and all of the joy and stress that comes along with this project. Returning to the office for the first time in nearly a year was a near-cathartic experience–the room had barely been touched in the last year and I was able to return to my desk as I had left it, with a copy of the demands from the Title IX protests last year and dozens of old copies sitting on the couch. And then there are the items of writers past, shoved in drawers and cabinets, and posted on the walls. They have not moved either, and won’t move while I’m here at the paper.

One of the new decorations, though, was a bobblehead of James Buchanan—the only Dickinson alum to serve as President. It was sent to the paper by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame as part of a series called “The Neglected Presidents.”

I think Phil, the man who sent this fine (and by this I mean absolutely mediocre) bobblehead meant to invoke our sense of tradition and affection for Dickinson by sending us a piece that commemorates the history. I appreciate the sentiment, but it is hard to get too worked up over a piece of plastic that commemorates a man whom I did not know and who was a pretty miserable president.

Yet the bobblehead does bring me closer to The Dickinsonian and the college because this ridiculous toy is now a piece of the office, and a story that I tell. As students have come to this office week after week and year after year to put a paper together, the office has accumulated treasures and junk, which fill our cabinets, and all of which must be memories to those who worked here before. Open a drawer and there is inevitably some item or old paper that you will have a question about and something that you know someone has a story about. There are few places where you will be sent a random bobblehead. There are even fewer places where you will have the chance to make it a decoration and a tradition and a feature of campus, and make your story part of the history or a tradition.

It is the same all across campus, with memories and stories made in the encounters with peers and in the experience of shared spaces. Being at college means sharing in the physical place—its dorms and paths and buildings—with all those others who me. Each Dickinsonian gets to experience this. It’s these memories and stories that I am building and which other people already have which make me feel membership in this community.

Though I only have the privilege of working on this paper and walking these campus paths for these four years at Dickinson, I feel connected to the past and future of the school through this space that we have all shared. I’ll be sad to leave that bobblehead behind in a few weeks—not because I have any care for the toy, but because it will mark the end of my time in the office, with the stories and excitement it brings