Work, exercise, cook, relax. That’s my plan for most workdays this year. It’s pretty straightforward. Some days, it feels really tough. At Duke, it’s easy to take a lot for granted. People who examine the Duke undergraduate experience rightfully emphasize the privileges inherent to an elite education, the growth it facilitates, the connections it makes, and the opportunities it offers. This post isn’t about any of that. It’s about the endless little benefits that I take for granted. It’s about the commute, the dining options, the gym, and the libraries. The minor frustrations and wasted hours sprinkled throughout my summer are pains largely foreign to my privileged life and Duke experience. In this post, I’ll walk you through one good, privileged day speckled with these little headaches.
My summer days start as I hurriedly stuff my breakfast and lunch in my backpack and head out of my apartment. It’s not the five-minute walk from Edens to main quad I’m used to or even the C1 ride I tolerated without much chagrin. I walk twenty minutes in temperatures that rise with the sun to my bus stop. There, I hop on the BCC (thank goodness they haven’t cancelled the route yet) and ride it for about fifteen minutes until I’m three blocks from the courthouse. Then I the bus and walk towards the courthouse. I have to get there early so I can change into the work clothes I didn’t want to ruin in the heat. The three miles from my apartments to the courthouse take me just under an hour. Many people have commutes like this, but not Duke students going to class.
After a long day of work, I walk to the bus station, ride the bus, and walk the last leg of my commute—if I intend to exercise in my room or not at all. Otherwise, I hop on a different bus, walk across campus, exercise, then walk another twenty-five minutes to my apartment. During the year, I can see the Edens’ gym from my dorm and Wilson after only a five-minute walk. This summer, I sweat as much trying to get to and from the gym in Durham heat as I do working out. After getting home from the gym or work, it’s time for me to get a meal together. If I planned my meals well and did my grocery-shopping accordingly, I can often eat leftovers or cook within half an hour. If not, it’s another forty minutes to go to the grocery store with a friend kind enough to let me ride in their car. Now eleven or twelve hours after leaving home in the morning, I can do something other than work, commute, eat, and exercise. I’m very lucky that these “long” days are not filled with two jobs, childcare responsibilities, or the other headaches of adulthood.
Kenan’s Purpose Grant has allowed me to spend my summer living a privileged and comfortable life. I only take one bus, I have generous funding from Kenan, I often have kind friends who will pick me up from Duke on their way home, and I never have to worry about being able to afford or access healthy food. The little things that have annoyed me this summer are nowhere near real struggles, but they help me to better understand where hardships can lie. Spending ten hours at work at commuting makes life hard for parents trying to both drop-off and pick-up their kids from school, especially where there are no available after-school programs. Grocery shopping would be much more difficult if I didn’t have generous friends willing to give me a ride. Affording, having time for, and physically getting to the gym would be much harder if I did not have access to Duke’s great facilities. In the coming years, I will work to better realize and appreciate the endless little privileges as well as the major benefits inherent to the Duke undergraduate experience.
David Frisch is a rising junior majoring in Political Science from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is one of seven 2018 Kenan Purpose Program Summer Fellows. David is fascinated by the ethics of law, especially as they intersect with family decisions. This summer, he will be working as a court advocate at the Durham Crisis Response Center in Durham, NC.