In sixth grade, I participated in a Pi memorization contest. First place was $100 and a special picture in the yearbook. I memorized almost 200 digits and came in second. The second place prize was a Hershey bar. So I was heartbroken and I threw away my prize only to immediately regret it. What better way, after all, to wallow in a devastating academic loss than with chocolate?
I think about the Pi incident more often than I should, due in large part to the fact that I still remember 30 of the digits I memorized. No matter what. They’re completely ingrained in me, and I couldn’t forget them if I tried. Test me. Next time you see me, demand to hear them. For those of you who don’t know me, we’ve even been so kind as to provide a picture.
For too long, I’ve been thinking of college as something I do that, after graduation, I won’t do anymore. Dartmouth isn’t something I do. It’s something I know, like the first 30 digits of Pi. There are those who will say that experience and action work the same way, once you learn it or do it, you’re done with it. But even the most hard-hearted cynic among us has a gem of a moment here, a glimpse into pure bliss when we learned something that astonished us or laughed like we were the only people in history or got exactly what we wanted right when we needed it. The moments that touch us, the things that matter, we don’t forget so easily.
A lot of people talk about “doing” Dartmouth. I don’t think I’ve done this school. I think I’ve learned it, which is not to say by any means that I know everything there is to know. Rather that I’ll graduate (that’s the deal, right Red?) and I won’t be able to get rid of the things that mattered if I tried. This world is full of spaces, and as much as I love the vanilla latte, there will be another Dirt Cowboy out there if I don’t close my heart to everything that isn’t Dartmouth. I’ll have good conversations and laugh there because I’ve learned what I think is interesting and funny, and because I’ve met the people that make me laugh hardest. It would be pretty tragic, after all, to look back at 21 and think that my best years were behind me.
I know it sounds like I’m trying to say goodbye to Dartmouth over-dramatically and two terms too early. But writing for The D is the longest commitment I’ve ever had here. Before I started classes or joined my improv group or met my best friends or felt happy, I was hired as a news writer. Fun fact, my application to write for the Mirror was rejected, so I guess you could call me a Horatio Alger story. Regardless of whatever perspective I may have gained, three years feels like a long time at 21, and the idea of endings is still brand new. This is a tough goodbye.
And for every late article, layout disaster, last-minute photo shoot and “correction appended,” the Mirror was something Tyler and I made. At the end of every week, I could hold newspaper in my hand and feel proud of something our staff had produced. We are all very, very good at making ourselves feel bad and insufficient, about academics or romance or extracurriculars or “fitting in.” Our capacity for self-ridicule and condemnation is infinite. The celebrated mantras of improvement and perfection imply that we as we stand are not yet enough. If we’re going to survive, we desperately need spaces where we are enough and more. Experiences that teach us that being small among billions in a big world is really a good thing, because it takes only a little thing to reach someone else, and that we are all so worthwhile. So thank you Dog Day for changing my life, thank you Pedro for laughing at my jokes, thank you mom for always calling me back and thank you Alex for listening to me cry.
And the biggest thanks to everyone who made a fun, long year at the Mirror possible. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud. I love you Tyler! Diana my love, I owe you a big one.
If you have my green peacoat, I’m not mad. I’d just really like it back.
Happy Final Friday!
I’m not one to get anxious about ends. I remember during my standard end of sophomore summer mid-life crisis, I tried to look back on my time at Dartmouth thus far and reflect on the growth it had given me. I tried to remember the mindset I was in when I arrived freshman fall. It’s time like these when I wish I kept a journal. My time here has transformed me in such fundamental ways that looking back and trying to see what was before has become a useless exercise. Its value has been its offering of a place to question who you are in more raw ways than ever before. I feel prepared for the world to come, not because I have acquired very many hard skills, but because I have been given the chance to question myself. I understand my own behavior, my desires and my flaws. Not many people our age are afforded this opportunity.
I have been truly fortunate in this regard. I came to Dartmouth with quite a bit of background knowledge about the place, which proved a tremendous advantage and made it easier for me to push myself harder and sooner than if I had needed that time to feel adjusted to a new environment. To be sure, carving my own experience was not easy, but this is the engagement of all students. We are told of the Dartmouth experience as if our movement here is restricted within the confines of those that preceded us. It’s ironic that at a place where we are told we can do anything, community rhetoric acts as constraint.
The collateral damage of such intense or conscious reflection is that it leads me to question the value of the decisions I made. Taking my final major classes, I look back and try to decide if I chose the best academic pursuit. It’s a pain to have to explain what your major is (geography is more than just looking at maps), but I feel pretty confident that the discipline has shaped my mind in ways I didn’t even know existed before. Working at a daily newspaper is usually stressful, and I sometimes wonder if it would have been better to allot my time to service opportunities, research or social organizations. But the chance to produce original content on such a regular basis and work with a production team every week has probably given me more marketable skills than I have picked up in any of my classes. Debates of value are constantly in flux in my obsessive mind.
The best professors help you see the light. In the spring, I was trying to convey to one of mine the deep connection I felt to this place and the sense of obligation I felt to it, because it has given so much to me. She told me it wasn’t the place — not the walls, the ivy or the buildings that had given me so much, but the people that were with me every step of the way as I navigated this place. It was a really simple concept that frankly is pretty cliche. The people are what makes this place what it is. But now that it’s my senior year, I have abandoned my visceral aversion to cliches.
So here’s to the people. Thank you to all the people I guilted into writing Through the Looking Glass columns, modeling for photos on our covers and sending me anything they had overheard that was remotely funny. Without my friends who emotionally supported me through the past three years at Dartmouth and especially the past year at The Dartmouth, I would have crumbled. And of course, thank you to everyone at the Mirror and The D who has worked to create an amazing product day in and day out. I’m so proud to call this place the number one time-suck of my Dartmouth career. It was worth it.
And finally, an enormous hug to my partner in this year-long reign of terror. Trust me when I say that without Amelia, the headlines would have been terrible and the captions would have been tired. Your undying energy has carried me through.
Happy, happy Friday!