“Perfect is the Enemy of the Good:” Caroline Robbins on Balance, Stories, and Self

By Rachael Jennings

Caroline Robbins knows that, while she may be introverted, there are many new students at Dublin this year, and she would love to get to know them. “I like learning people’s stories and finding out what’s important to them,” she says.



“In those [getting-to-know-you] conversations, whether it’s a hello or people coming into my room during study hall or during sports, there are a lot of places I can get to know people and their stories.”

Caroline brought many stories to Dublin, herself, just last year.

She, a mid-year transfer student, had “technically” attended four high schools before Dublin, two of which were in San Francisco, her hometown. As a mid-year transfer, she was nervous about jumping into a new community partway through an academic year.

“I was really scared when I came in halfway through the year,” she smiles. “Like, really scared.”

However, during her first night at Dublin, Caroline started to learn about the people and stories of the place that would begin to feel like a home.

“My roommate was really extroverted right away,” she describes. “It really helped. There was one girl who came downstairs right before I went to bed the first night, and she asked if I wanted to go to breakfast the next morning. I was so happy I almost cried. I said, ‘Yes, please!’ We became good friends and like to talk and joke and share what we are feeling. She was one of my first friends here, and she helped me connect to her friends, and some of those friendships turned into relationships with a lot of trust and support.”

From a single-sex school to a co-educational school, from the west coast to the east, a great deal was new to Caroline upon her arrival.

But what she realized was that “people immediately looked out for [her] and listened to [her].”

“Being able to have people trust me enough to tell me their stories made me feel that I could trust them,” she explains. “That vulnerability was pleasantly surprising. I didn’t expect to be vulnerable right away.”

How does vulnerability become such an essential fiber to life at Dublin?

People are there. People are present. Students and teachers, alike.

“There are many times when I have needed help and [people] were there,” Caroline says. “I could not, for the life of me, figure out to do a graph on excel for a class. And my friend saw me upset in my room and came in, like, ‘What’s wrong?’ thinking it was this huge thing. When I told her, she started laughing. And then she helped me. Sat with me to work on it.”

“And it’s stuff like that,” she says. “For example, my friend or roommate will just come into my room and just say, ‘We need to discuss something,’ and we open up and talk. It’s nice.”

“At first, I was wary,” she admits. “Is everyone nice because they want something? And then I realized it’s genuine.”

How did she know?

“Time. You can only hold up a facade for so long. You can only hold it up a short period. And, intuitively, I knew from the beginning that it seemed genuine. Normally, your intuition gives you a signal. And so I felt that it was real, but time has proven that.”

Caroline describes herself as someone who is “still figuring everything out” and who is “quite paradoxical at heart.” She is an equestrian who likes to be with animals. She is a reader who likes to write and, while she does not consider herself “sporty,” she is an avid sports supporter: her favorite teams include the Golden State Warriors, the Kentucky Wildcats, the San Francisco Giants.

This year, she has set social and academic goals.

“I don’t usually set like: THESE ARE MY GOALS, but they are always in my mind. I do put a lot of importance on academic results. I definitely want to continue to do my best. My dad has always said, ‘It doesn’t matter what kind of grade you get, as long as you are doing your best.’ I want to keep putting that work in.”

She also strives for balance.

“I think [balance] is hard because I need alone time, but I also get lonely sometimes,” she explains.

But she has coping mechanisms, many of which the campus culture and beautiful location nourishes.

“Last year, I used to go to Upper Field at night and lie down and look at the stars,” she says. “Or I will find a quiet place inside and read. Books do a lot. Or, I use that alone time to keep in touch with my friends who are far away. I do get pretty drained if I have a long day of interacting. I need to hermit myself in my room for a little, you know?”

Caroline is motivated, and much of her academic frame comes from her family.

“My dad has many adages that he likes to use like, ‘Push through walls!’ Invigorating stuff like that,” she says.

“A main difference between my dad’s method and mine,” she clarifies, “is that I don’t work very well under pressure. I find that I procrastinate and then find myself under pressure. And sometimes what I do then is call someone and sit on the phone in silence while I read or something so that I am not alone in my work.”

This method of keeping in touch serves her well, too, as she has friends in many different states and time zones.

“Technically this is my fourth high school. I’ve been many places and met many people. I went on this trip through Rustic Pathways when I was fourteen. I went to Morocco, Spain, and Laos. I met a lot of really interesting people, and I stay in really good touch with a couple of them. And then I have friends from my schools in California and my friends from my last school, and so, it is kind of hard to balance, but I think with Skype and social media, it’s easier to stay in touch.”

“Sometimes, Dublin wants us to be busy so that we aren’t sad or don’t fester, which is good, because structure is really helpful. And too much alone time isn’t healthy,” she admits. “Everything is a balance. That was a hard thing for me to realize, [at first]. I am still working on balance. There are times when everybody leans too much toward one side or the other: business or alone time. My mom helped me learn this especially.”

She highlights a cherished day from the 2015-16 school year: Harvey Day.

Mr. Bates, starting with Annika Day, had begun instituting top-secret days off of school and work that are named after recently added members of the community: faculty and staff babies. When Harvey Pierpont was born, Bates sent an all-school e-mail one evening at around 7 pm, announcing a surprise day off.

“Last year, we had Harvey day. I could hear my friends screaming through the wall [when they got the e-mail from Mr. Bates], knocking on the wall, shouting. We were so, so excited. And our routines and busy schedules makes the down time that much better.”

There’s a cultivated appreciation for the slowed down moments.

Simultaneously, there’s a cultivated appreciation for figuring out how you learn best even in rigorous, challenging contexts.

“One time last year, right before the spring exams, I just knew from the beginning that one exam was going to be particularly tough,” Caroline says. “I went to the teacher the night before the exam, and the teacher asked me to restructure my thesis for the essay I was going to do and also to get some sleep. It was kind of a lose-lose because I didn’t get very much sleep and I didn’t do very well.”

“But it was a learning moment because I can have a really bad assignment or really bad day, it doesn’t totally affect my whole life or future. I’ve come to realize that my future is not all resting on one assignment. As my dad says, ‘Perfect is the enemy of the good.’

“In the same class as the tough exam, during my winter term,” she adds. “I had made a plethora of mind maps. I had invested a fair amount of pencil led and a lot of mind space into those mind maps. I had written in ridiculously small print. I showed the maps to my advisor, and my advisor was very proud that I had been studying. I ended up getting a 100% on that one.”

“Dublin provides the space for relationships and for self-initiated ‘self’ space. For independence,” Caroline explains. “You find ways to make time for you and to get out in the world.”

You find ways, as her dad might say, to find the good.