Editor’s Note: Each week, Amy examines a small group of students in order to understand the individual Dartmouth experience as part of a whole. This week, Amy chats with a group of ’09 friends about the uncertainty that lies ahead as the New Year brings — among other things — Graduation.
New Year’s is an institution that brings three things: binge drinking, sentimental hindsight and dread for the year to come. I feel like I’ve gotten the first two pretty much out of the way already, but the third is still lodged somewhere in my trachea.
Now I know I’m not the only one who has no idea where I’ll be in a year’s time. I feel like most of us seniors are in the same boat. But does everyone with an ’09 tacked onto the end of his name feel as scared shitless as I do? I sat down with some of my friends and asked incredibly deep, probing questions.
Like me, Kat has no idea what she’ll be doing next year. We talked about the year to come over a lemon square at Rosey Jekes.
“The problem is,” Kat explained succinctly, “I don’t even know what I want to do; I’m looking at so many things.”
This isn’t the main thing on her mind though.
“A lot of what I’ve focused on at Dartmouth is getting to know people.”
Of course, even though relationships are in theory long-lasting, the longevity of those relationships weighs heavily on her mind.
“I want to stay connected to Dartmouth. The last four years were the best four years of my life … hopefully I’ll be on the East coast so I can come up for big weekends and pester my sorority sisters.”
“If I’m marooned somewhere where there are two sketchy alums and me, I’ll be really bored,” Kat mused. “I’m lazy. I don’t want to make the effort to recreate a whole social sphere.”
Despite her light tone, Kat hit a nerve within me. Though I might not be super gung-ho about my first alumni homecoming, I too have no desire to go back to square one socially. I don’t really keep up with many of my friends from high school. And when I left Small Town America for Dartmouth, I was willing to sacrifice all that came before for a new beginning. Maybe I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, but in the past four years, I’ve made the closest friends I’ve ever had, and like Kat — who described Dartmouth’s big advantage as “being 4,000 really smart people in the wilderness” — I think they’re as important as the coursework I’ve completed. So why would I want to forge my way in the world without these relationships?
Alison is going to law school. Since she has her life pretty much figured out in a way that both Kat and I do not, I figured her perspective on things would be different. Or maybe not.
“I’m excited for a new chapter, but I don’t want a new life,” she said. “I don’t want to uproot myself and be a whole different person.”
Alison also worries that in the next year, she’ll have hemmed herself in, in some way.
“There’s that ‘We’re Dartmouth kids, we can do whatever we want,’ and to some extent, that’s true, but I also feel like I’m on the ‘Doctor, Lawyer, Banker’ track. I’m not going to write the Great American Novel … Closing doors forces you to be more mature than I probably am.”
Still, for my two friends, not everything was doom and gloom. Both have a sense of excitement for the year to come, a sense of anticipation for the life ahead.
“In some ways, I’m excited about next year in the same way as being a freshman is exciting. Everything is shiny and new,” Kat said.
Or in the words of Alison, “I’m definitely excited to be a spring chicken somewhere because I feel like an old crone here and it’s bothering me. Does it bother you?”
I laughed and agreed, but somehow I’m still terrified of being a spring chicken again. Breaking out of shells is a messy job, and I’m not sure if I’m up for it yet.