Matthews: The View from the Balcony
By Susan Matthews, The Dartmouth Senior Staff
Published on Friday, June 10, 2011
It’s a cool night, typical for June in Hanover. From the balcony of Robinson Hall, I can see that the Green has successfully regrown, covering the scars of Homecoming to appear healthy for graduation. Soon, the Class of 2011 will hide the fatigue of finals and exhaustion of Senior Week to appear as fresh as our grassy carpet as we morph from undergraduates into alumni. In this act, we will once again be reunited just as we were in matriculating, when we stood in former College President James Wright’s office and he gave us everything for the price of a handshake and a couple hundred grand.
Though Dartmouth has worlds to offer, our short time here does not provide us the chance to explore everything we might wish to. In this, it echoes what we will also find in the decades ahead. Because no matter how often we claim that this “is not real life,” it is — and somehow four years have escaped our grasp as we have tried to squeeze out more time.
My four years have been a succession of overscheduled days that blurred into terms that went by too quickly. I blinked and the exhilaration of 07F had melted into a sun-soaked 09X, which gave way to a brutal 10W — and suddenly here we are in a bittersweet 11S.
I realize now that the more I learn, the less I know. Perhaps the most important lesson my classes at Dartmouth have taught me is that I may never completely grasp string theory, understand the musings of Baudrillard or speak perfect French. My professor in South Africa once confessed to me that if I didn’t return to the States with more questions than I had when I left, he would have considered himself a failure, and predictably I landed in New York three months later with my mind swimming. Thus, Dartmouth has not satiated my curiosity, but instead has sharpened it. Isn’t this what we hope to experience in life?
The year I spent editing this paper provided me with the most valuable experience I had at Dartmouth. An appreciation of syntax, a respect for the power of written words and a humbling awareness of the permanence of the Internet came with the innumerable hours I spent in The D’s offices. As former Mirror columnist Matthew Ritger ’10 once wrote in these same pages, I learned to “work so hard I forgot to eat” — no small feat as anyone familiar with my overactive metabolism knows. But the more important lessons were realizing the necessity of relying on my team and learning that it is the criticism from those who are closest to us that hurts deepest if we let it, but helps most if we accept it.
Now, since I can do anything with these 800 words that are about to be tossed into the enduring World Wide Web, I want to spend some of them thanking my parents for so graciously providing me with this experience, and for being there the times I lost myself along the way. I have tried to thank them throughout — for everything from the absurd number of times they helped me move in and out of dorm rooms to more important moments, like how they comforted me one day in late December when I finally registered that graduation was not only real, but terrifying. Over the past four years, I have slowly felt the responsibility of parenting me shift from their shoulders onto my own, despite the embarrassing number of times I’ve overdrawn my checking account. But if I take anything from their example, I know that keeping them informed of how I use this gift of education will give them more satisfaction than any current words of gratitude could hope to.
Looking back, I came to Dartmouth most excited to meet my 1,000 or so incredibly talented new classmates. I arrived in the playpen that is created when this many college students are isolated in the New Hampshire hills with thousands of cases of Keystone Light. I have found — as a student and in managing the content of The D — that Dartmouth is a bizarre little bubble with quirks that range across a wide spectrum, from lovable to problematic.
But these problems seem properly irrelevant now as I count the remaining days and consider how I wish to spend them. The answer, of course, is simple — I will spend them celebrating with the wonderful friends I am lucky to have made here.
Although I have continuously failed to find the proper words to conclude this column, or this chapter in my life, Dartmouth has taught me when to rely on the wisdom of my predecessors, and so I will do just that.
“It is a small college, and yet there are those who love it.”
Today, we share our love of Dartmouth with those we love.
Susan Matthews ’11 is the former editor-in-chief.