In the 35th episode of SpongeBob SquarePants’ first season, SpongeBob and Patrick accidentally board a bus to Rock Bottom after a fun day at Glove World. They intended, as everyone does, to conclude their day in Bikini Bottom: the hectic yet beautifully simple community they call home. In a shocking plot twist, however, as SpongeBob looks out the window and begins to say “Patrick, I think we are on the wrong bus,” the road drops out from beneath them and the natural forces of gravity force them against the wall of their transport.
As the vessel falls over the 90-degree cliff, SpongeBob is able to momentarily rid himself of gravity’s force and attempts to claw himself to the front of the bus, to no avail. His clothes are ripped off him, and his underwear lands on Patrick’s face, who is still pressed against the wall—cue the laughter. The bus stops, but, instead of departing at Bikini Bottom, they find themselves at Rock Bottom.
I have, like many of you I’m sure, been in a similar scenario. I boarded the wrong bus, which in turn took a path that I had never been on, and was stripped of my clothes, with underwear in my face and no idea how to get back. Then, as I was trying to find a new route to get back to Bikini Bottom, I missed the next bus because I was too busy trying to overcompensate for the first failure.
Although this is a children’s show, the metaphor of hitting rock bottom is pertinent to most of us here at Boston College and at similar schools throughout the country. Here we are, intentionally or unintentionally, boarding a bus that is going to take us to a dark place with weird creatures that want to eat us when all we want is to get back to a familiar place. Arriving at Rock Bottom, however, is one of life’s greatest gifts for two reasons: self-discovery—a state-of-being that is still so foreign to many of us—and a change in perspective.
Rock bottom is going to look different for each of us. For me, the bottom was littered with other people’s garbage, empty bottles, a random assortment of broken promises, synthetically engineered placebos, and lots of items that I had pushed over the cliff myself. For you, whoever you may be, rock bottom is going to be different in many ways. There’s one thing, though, that I hope is similar: I hope you face-plant on the ground of rock bottom at some point in your life. I hope that you hit rock bottom so that you are able to stand up once the concussion has passed. You will see an entirely new world in front of you. You will find an entirely honest version of yourself.
This foreign place is so incredibly beneficial to us as human beings because we gain a new perspective on our regularly scheduled world. Should you get creative, make a few changes, and stop the unhealthy behavior, you will (without a doubt) find a way to get back to Bikini Bottom. But how can you find a way to get out of the darkness that has engulfed you? That is the ultimate question.
In those moments, where the only thing we can feel is the ground beneath our feet, our soul unconsciously directs us toward a place that is more well-lit. We self-correct so that we can relieve whatever pressures we are feeling because our mind and our bodies know that rock bottom is not a place it wants to be for long. When the garbage started piling around my feet, I didn’t realize that I had turned toward writing, running, and raving. I was not cognizant of this in the moment, but when I simply opened my eyes to look at my environment, I was spending my free time in Bapst, around the reservoir, and at the House of Blues.
Look at where you spend those moments when you are not in complete darkness—chances are these escapes are not what made you board the bus to begin with and will provide some type of bushwhacking trail so you can get back on top of the cliff. You have to be open to all the possibilities and accept unconventional ways. I do offer a disclaimer: You are not going to like everything about everything. But you aren’t going to like nothing about everything, either. There will be positives and negatives about every decision you make during your time on this planet, but life is about weighing those differences.
You have to be honest with yourself and use every conceivable tool at your disposal when you are at Rock Bottom—the vending machines full of kelp chips are only going to keep you alive for so long. Whether it be inflating the glove you got at Glove World, constructing a ladder out of tumbleweeds, or asking for Plankton’s help, there is no circumstance that gives you the option to go down but does not give you the option to go up. (I am speaking in terms of personal context, not social. I do not believe that the United States gives everyone an equal opportunity to succeed.) Rock Bottom is purposely located next to Bikini Bottom because a single decision, a single path, can lead you to a world that will alter your perspective for the rest of your life.
Featured Graphic by Anna Tierney / Graphics Editor