As We Go on, We Remember…
By Robert Szypko, The Dartmouth Senior Staff
Published on Friday, May 25, 2012
It’s sophomore spring and I am facing a big, older football player in the wee hours of Saturday morning. We are arguing in his fraternity’s parking lot. He controls the space, he would win in a fight, he is older and better established on campus and he is swearing at me. I am swearing back. He had yelled mockingly at my friend and me as we were walking home, mistaking us for freshmen. I let him know that we aren’t freshmen and that no one is deserving of such unwarranted verbal abuse.
There is no reasoning to be had at 2 a.m. on a Saturday and we have five seconds to get off of their property. We take six seconds to walk off and are shoved on the ground.
Hold on a second — where are the strong ones, the independent ones, the kind ones? They’ll speak for me, right? They’re in bed already, or still drinking, or something.
When I shatter my wrist later that night, it is in part the articulation of my deep sense of powerlessness and a lack of place at Dartmouth. The enemy is everywhere and the enemy is nowhere, so I have no one to take it out on but my wall.
While that moment is a hallmark of my Dartmouth experience, it wasn’t entirely negative. Things went pretty well for me otherwise that term. I made some really great friends. People dig casts. I realized who really cared about me. I was forced to confront myself — what mattered to me in my college experience, how I interacted with other people — in a very real way, with each inconvenient trip I made on Advanced Transit to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
Last weekend, this same man bumps into me at a party. He doesn’t remember me and doesn’t bump me on purpose. I want to go up to him and say, “Hi Mike. You treated me like shit my sophomore year and I just want you to know that I haven’t forgotten it.” Instead I text this to my friend, leave the party and go take a nap. Green Key is exhausting.
Here’s the thing. Mike isn’t worth my time. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that individuals who treat people like that don’t matter. Maybe I needed to break my hand to realize that.
It’s my senior fall, and a taller man is yelling at me again. It’s different this time, because this man is Patrick Stickles, lead singer of Titus Andronicus, one of my favorite rock bands in the whole world. This time I’m laughing back. Stickles is mockingly imitating Mike. I had just told Stickles the story, and we proceed to trade other stories about our awkward Catholic histories.
Stickles and the rest of Titus Andronicus are at my off-campus house hanging out with a bunch of us after they rocked our faces off in Fuel for Friday Night Rock. It is one of the best nights of my Dartmouth career. I have a place now — my house, Fuel. I now feel a sense of power in the positions I hold in FNR and in other opportunities I have to engage in robust social experiences on my own terms.
Great things happened to me here. I had the opportunity to create wonderful moments and share them with close friends. But bad things happened to me here, too. My friends from other universities have graduated already, and I’ve seen plenty of “best four years of my life” statuses on Facebook. I know I’ll never muster the self-delusion to say the same. That’s not to say that they were the worst four years. They were four formative years.
It is important that we negotiate the differences between nostalgia and reality as we reflect on our time here at Dartmouth. I grew from dark moments like that fight. I think I’m also better for the wonderful times I’ve had here with FNR, The Dartmouth and my enriching academic experiences. I won’t let the bad spoil the good and won’t let the good sugarcoat what I learned from the bad.
Graduation is an opportunity to reflect upon the entirety of our Dartmouth experience. I challenge others to embrace memories of any trying times they’ve had here, to avoid whitewashing the past with nothing but nostalgic remembrances of endless spring weekends and toasty cabin overnights.
Doing so offers us a more complete picture of our histories and a more enriching opportunity to reflect as we move on from dear old Dartmouth.
Rob is the former Arts and Entertainment editor.