Letter from Alex Mette

Dear Antioch,
Between periods of extreme stress and sadness I have thought about what this all means for me and my future, but mostly my heart goes out to others.  I came here not too sure about how I would feel about this place, in fact, after I came here to visit I had a lot of doubts about whether I really wanted to come here.  I remember that some people were doing an art project called ‘Antioch is Fucked’ and I asked them, “Is Antioch fucked because of us (the incoming class) or without us?”  “Both,” they told me.  While I have come to realize that while they had a point, there is also a lot of “the new class is so watered-down, the real Antioch is dead, etc.”  Well, for my part, I’m pretty watery but besides our poor grassroots recruitment I think that people always idealize the past.  Antioch may only have a hundred students but it remains a vibrant community and an amazingly educational place.  I think that Antiochians remain concerned about this place, what it is becoming, what it maybe used to have been, because the idea of Antioch is so beautiful.  That same idea remains today.  It is, and always has been, an image.  Despite that, Antioch, the people here, the environment, has helped to me find that image for myself, not of a flourishing progressive bastion of education and social activism, but of the personal.  For me there is always an ideal, and there is reality, what we want to become, and what we are.  Whether these differences are real or just mental, Antioch has taken me closer to my image of the world and myself than I have ever experienced.  I have seen glimpses of what life can be and I think that the freedom that Antioch creates, freedom to express as well as to learn, makes it a sanctuary. 
It is a sanctuary and it is a bubble but it also values discomfort, and applies that value to education.  Antioch, more than anywhere I have ever been, challenges you.  It’s dialectic though, while some students value the importance of trauma as part of education, it is also an amazingly accepting place.  I have never felt free to act in a way that is so liberating of social boundaries.  I have always felt that even though Antioch has its own social norms and expectations, at the very least, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone, you will be left alone.  I think that’s something I was looking for too, I think here, acceptance comes second, after the trials and judging and social abrasion, we are allowed to settle into this place and from that comes a more true identity.  Maybe its because it would be impossible to live so intimately in a small community and maintain a front to the world, but whatever the case, I feel that Antioch has moved beyond acceptance to the point where I feel valued.
For all my thoughts though, and all my stress about leaving and what may be next, I also feel energized.  I know that deep below my chaotic day-to-day life I have gained so much from Antioch that when I leave I will take with me.  I will bring that image with me and continue to strive to become closer to it.  Just as ultimately I may find that becoming satisfied with myself and becoming some image of the future and the ideal are one in the same, Antioch has taught me things that I already knew.  I thought Antioch could teach me to be an activist but it has taught me that it cant be taught, that it comes from inside and must be so important that it perseveres through whatever barriers inevitably arise.  For me it has been self-doubt and remains so, but Antioch is not a place, the things it has shown me do not depend on these buildings, or these people, or anything that makes Antioch what it is, and what it means that its closing.  The way I think of it now, it has never been permanent and it was never meant to be.  I think people fear leaving, or create myths like drinking from the Yellow Springs because we want to hold on to this place and what it allows us to be.  I helped to protect myself when I came here by saying that this is not something that will define my life, its just one part, its not supposed to be more than a place that provides some opportunity but its not permanent.
For me it’s not permanent and for no one it is but as a student and as someone who has come here and gained things, as well as hopefully giving something too, my time here does not need to be long.  Two years, or four years, or six years, eventually I must leave.  In the same way I have protected myself coming here, I protect myself leaving.  Even as I say it, sounding resolved and maybe defeated, I know that I haven’t been defeated, and neither has Antioch but its because of those people that stay and who have stayed that make that true.  For the people who have been here before me, who are leaving a place that is more than a temporal, that alters the course of my life but does not slow its progression, those are the people I am sad for.  To me, they are the ones who have created the real Antioch, not an idealized image of the past but what is now and what is real.  It is easy to fall into a mindset where we talk about the legacy, the name, the past, as we move away from it, but it’s the embodiment of all those things that is truly precious.  Antioch can only be defeated when all that it means is left with these decaying buildings, when it becomes burdened by administrative overhead, and crippled by financial exigency.  What is important is that while all that stands in the background we continue to strive for justice and to pursue knowledge.  My whole life I have been an observer, and I have remained one largely throughout this last year, Antioch has not criticized me for that, even as we talk about action its not a contradiction.  Antioch has taught me to watch first and then act.  That actions must be deliberate, that good intentions are not enough.  I will not leave here defeated because I have grown, I have been inspired, and I continue to be.  My heart goes out to the people who cannot so easily take what Antioch has given them and carry it to the next city.  To the people who have roots here, and those for whom Antioch is more than what it has done for me.  It is the collection of what it does for all of us, but above all it is what we can do.
Alex Mette