I’m back. Again. Nine months out of college and already on my second job, second city, and third apartment — I sublet a lot because I’m afraid of commitment — and I’m back for Stuff Dartmouth Kids Like’s second return.
Once upon a time, there was a woman named Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, or “Madame de Pompadour.” She was the chief mistress to King Louis XV, which was apparently something to brag about in those days. France was embroiled in the Seven Years’ War, and in keeping with the “French military victories” Google bomb, it was not going well. In 1757, France and Austria suffered a catastrophic defeat to Prussia at the Battle of Rossbach. Madame de Pompadour is said to have comforted Louis with the now-famous words, “Au reste – après nous, le Déluge.”
Besides — after us, the Deluge. Noah’s Flood. The one that destroyed the world.
Madame de Pompadour died in 1764, and Louis XV a decade later. In 1765, the British passed the Stamp Act, the first levied tax in the American colonies. And 1775, as we all know, was the beginning of the American Revolution. Maybe she was right.
That’s what we all think, right? That the world – our world – will not go on, cannot go on, without us. We are integral, we are essential. The way we feel right now, in this moment? Nobody can understand it, the desperate fear and breathless elation and bitter sadness that accompany endings that are not truly endings. Endings that throw open the world, whether we’re ready or not.
After us, the Flood.
I think she said it because if après nous nothing happens, then what was the point? If après nous the pale blue dot we live on does not change, we are just as cosmically small as Carl Sagan has always said we are, and that’s terrifying. The universe is endless, and we are tiny. But we are also huge. We are capable of being huge — of crippling hatred and massive grief, overwhelming joy and incredible love. We are tiny, but we are also made of stars.
At this moment, we are older than we’ve ever been, but we are also younger than we will ever be again. How crazy is that?
I gave away a lot of my stuff last weekend at bequests. Most of the things that mark me as a Dartmouth student are gone, packed into separate trash bags and given away. Items of clothing and flair and knickknacks that are pieces of me, that were pieces of the people before me. Last weekend, I sat in a room with my sisters and watched as four years of memories were scattered to the winds. It all felt oddly poignant, and then I remembered that we were giving away ratty old shirts and plastic swords and things we stole from fraternities. Pieces of us.
When I think about my time at Dartmouth, I have trouble forming a narrative. There is a story, of course, one that I’ve been telling for the last two years and will probably tell for the rest of my life. But if I close my eyes and try to play back the movie that was college in my head, I see moments instead.
The day I moved in, with way too many boxes and not enough hangers. The construction paper game. That night we went to Denny’s at four in the morning, and you left your number for the waiter in ketchup. The time we got caught playing pong in our freshman common room, and you chugged all the Andre before Safety and Security came back. My first SAM. The time we watched the sunrise and went to Lou’s. The time there were pumpkins everywhere. Coffee Club (hey Ben). The Ledyard Challenge. My last SAM. Cigars on the Robo balcony. The bells every day. The roar of the bonfire.
It’s hard to separate one moment from the next. I try to remember what I did certain days — Friday of Green Key my freshman year, my first day of classes or the first day of senior year. And I can’t. Some scenes are clear, some aren’t. But what I do remember is the feeling.
The first time I felt it wasn’t during the Dimensions show, my first glimpse of Dartmouth. Not because the fake prospies are a lie, but because you never really get a chance to slow down and breathe it all in. You are always doing something. There’s no time. The first time I felt it was during the end of Trips, when we learned the alma mater. Every word. Every bit of choreography and “spontaneous” addendum that accompanies all the lines. Later, I learned what not to do. Why you shouldn’t stomp when you sing lest the old traditions fail…
It’s the feeling I get every time finals period rolls around, and it’s 3 a.m., and there’s a line of people milling around Novack, checking in with each other. Everyone’s tired, everyone’s stressed, but it’s peaceful, too. You wouldn’t expect it, but there’s a serenity that accompanies what is typically one of the most stressful parts of your term. The eye of the storm. And yet, I still feel it. It’s part pride, part love, part community. It’s Dartmouth.
Yesterday marked the last day of classes. We are done. In 10 days, we are going to sit in rows on the Green in the blazing hot sun (or the rain – this weather is leaving a lot of room for debate) and walk across the stage and shake Phil Hanlon’s hand. In 10 days, we are going to lose this place in a way. It will no longer be our home. But I hope we don’t lose each other. I don’t think we will.
’14s, I love you. Hanover, I love you. And to everybody who is as scared and nervous and thrilled as I am to be graduating, remember this – in your heart, in your soul, you can’t escape Dartmouth. Take her with you when you go.
Hi. You don’t know me, and we’re probably never going to meet. By the time you’re reading this I will have left Dartmouth (if I take my swim test in time), and you’ll be matriculated. Congratulations!
Make sure you have a team. College is crazy – I mean when you think about it, you’ve put 4,000 hormonal kids looking for direction together in one place, aided by golden rivers of Keystone and a propensity for running around in outfits that make no sense – weird things are bound to happen. Going to a place where everybody knows your name isn’t overrated. Maybe it’s your frat basement, maybe it’s your thesis subgroup, maybe it’s the kids you eat weekly Sunday brunch with. Find your people – you’ll need them.
It is okay to drink Zhenka at this stage in your life. If you are still drinking it a year from now, reexamine your priorities.
Carve out your own little nooks here. Try to find your happy places, the little crannies of campus that are just your own. Dartmouth moves quickly, and once in a while you’re going to need to stop and take stock.
FOMO is okay. Letting FOMO take over your life is not. Take alone time now and then or else your life will become a miserable, facetimed-out nightmare.
Before your first bonfire, go outside and stand on the lawn in front of Baker Tower. Just look at the Green, and take a deep breath. Somehow, every year, before the freshmen run around in circles, the air manages to smell like fire. It’s like the Green remembers. And don’t get too drunk beforehand. You’re going to want to remember it for the rest of your life.
If someone tells you you’re twos on line, that means there’s one game that has to happen after the current one on table before you get to play. Try not to hit low.
When it’s sophomore year, try to get some perspective. It’s hard to step back and remember that in a year, nobody is going to give a crap about what house you’re in or how your frat is ranked on Bored at Baker (see below), but try. Try to remember that your letters do not even come close to defining who you are or who you can be. Your friends will stay your friends no matter what your affiliation, and if they’re not, they’re pretty crappy and you’re probably better off without them. And for the love of Phil Hanlon, never use the term “A-side” unironically outside of a rugby context.
Don’t be intimidated by Collis pasta or stir-fry. But please make sure you’re not figuring it out for the first time when you’re in line.
This one’s important. They say that on your deathbed, you’ll never wish you spent more time at the office, but it’s not true. It is too easy to get lost here, to spend your days playing pong and nothing else. Keep your head above water. Go to the library. Work your ass off. Stay in sometimes. Trust me, you’ll regret it if you don’t. That being said, if you spend your days in 1902, you’re going to miss out, too.
Don’t read Bored at Baker. Or do if you must, but don’t take it seriously. Don’t let it get to you. There is almost nothing on it worth your attention or worry, and there is very little that is positive that you’ll get from it. Read something more productive that may actually contribute to your life, like the New York Times. Or BuzzFeed.
At 6 p.m. every day, if you ever feel lonely or scared or like you need something to keep you from floating away, stop walking wherever you’re going or doing what you’re doing and listen. It will connect you to all the years before you, all the people who have walked these paths before you and before me.
I spent four years at Dartmouth. You will, too. It changed my life, and I hope it changes yours. Good luck, and welcome home.
There is a concept in engineering known as the “signal to noise ratio” – when a signal is transmitted in any communication system, the receiver will detect the signal along with a certain amount of background noise. The idea is to keep this ratio above 1:1, so that the signal is more prominent than the background noise. Otherwise, the information the system needs to operate will be lost.
While this has been a banner year for Dartmouth, which is rapidly becoming the media’s poster child for campus dysfunction, change is happening on our campus. The College released a sexual assault policy calling for the expulsion of convicted students. The Greek Leadership Council unanimously passed a policy banning any “events or activities that usurp the culture or identity of other groups.” These are important changes and steps that should be celebrated. And yet campus climate has gotten worse.
I am frustrated, and I suspect many of you are, too. I am tired of pretending that the noise on campus resembles anything close to a dialogue, or that there is even any interest in having one.
Shortly after the “Freedom Budget” was sent to campus, a meeting to discuss its specific points was held in Collis Common Ground, attended by easily over 100 students. Described as “open,” the moderators instead started the event by declaring the entire meeting off-the-record, effectively denying those who were unable to attend the chance to read a detailed account of what was said. It was disheartening to see a group of students so clearly passionate about their cause unwilling to be as transparent as possible about their thought process.
While students asked College President Phil Hanlon questions at his open office hours, instead of listening and responding, they chose to openly mock him, insult him and cut him off in the middle of dozens of sentences. When other students spoke up, they were treated with disdain and met with laughter. One student was openly jeered and laughed at when he described his experiences working with impoverished children abroad, as if being a white male automatically divests him of a social conscience. The same student was told that part of “white privilege” is never having to hear others tell him that he had only been admitted to Dartmouth because of his skin color. Approximately 30 seconds later, the student said he had, in fact, been told this. The protestor’s response? “But you did only get into Dartmouth because you’re white.” I am disappointed that some students purportedly fighting to make Dartmouth a safer, more welcoming place, possess in such meager quantities the respect they demand others afford their experiences.
Frankly, I am amused that a student described the Parkhurst sit-in as a “hostage situation” – when was the last time you read a news story about hostages who needed to be asked multiple times to leave their imprisonment?
The trope that “I’m not here to educate you or to contribute to your social consciousness or cultural knowledge” has become standard. It was most recently employed in the comments section of The Dartmouth, when students questioned how a fundraiser reduced Cinco de Mayo to a drinking holiday with the “inappropriate usage of cultural clothing.” The theme of the April event played on the participating organizations’ names with a word that has long been integrated into the English lexicon, with no alcohol and a ban on costumes.
I am tired of being told that the student body is a hotbed of racism, sexism, chauvinism and any other “-ism” you can think of. I am tired of having to repeat that racism is something that we all think is bad, as it if wasn’t already obvious. Others are tired, too.
Perhaps activism in its purest form does not require explanation. Perhaps in many cases, conditions are so dire that explanation is not necessary. The problems we face today, though no less real, are far less obvious than the disenfranchisement of black citizens in apartheid-era South Africa or the segregated schools of the Jim Crow South. No Dartmouth student needs information beyond a description to understand why these eras were demonstrations of humanity’s lowest moments. But students may need more to understand why a certain behavior, College policy or school tradition makes a group of students feel two-dimensional and exoticized.
Saying “you are on the wrong side of history” will not change minds or policy. If an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, isn’t a community where everyone actually understands how their actions affect others better than one where accusations of racism and appropriation are made after an incident occurs? Asking questions is not an attempt to diminish – it is an attempt to understand and move toward that kind of community. Avoiding those questions or answering with a string of buzzwords, for better or worse, looks like a feint.
In engineering, if your signal-to-noise ratio is off, you have two options. You can change the environment in which your receiver is placed, or you can tweak the receiver to better detect what is essential information and what is background buzz.
Standing up for what you believe in is always impressive. Being open to changing your mind about something you always thought was true is commendable as well. But refusing to further understanding of the issues you seek to fix is not. It’s time to separate the signal from the noise.
Picture this – I’m scrolling through my Instagram feed, seeing food, study abroad scenery and #tbt shots, when suddenly I see three pictures from three different people tagged #100happydays. Which made me laugh, because those of you who know me know that while I am generally a happy person, there is not a soul in the world who would say any of the following things about me – “She’s always so cheerful!” “She’s literally always smiling!” “I wish I could be as positive as she is!”
This isn’t to say that I’m a black cloud of doom and gloom. I am, however, from New York City, a place where walking around with a smile on your face all the time basically classifies you as a crazy person in everyone else’s mind. Remember enthusiastic Parker from “Friends”? Basically, that guy. I was curious, so I googled the phrase. Thanks to the power of the Internet, I was directed to the homepage of the 100 Happy Days campaign, which challenges people to post pictures of things that make them happy to their Instagrams, Twitters and Facebooks for 100 days.
I’m all for being happy. I think the world is a far better place when we stop and take stock of the good things in our lives. But throwing a filter on a picture of a really delicious banana and tagging it #100happydays so everyone else can see how Zen, centered and grateful you are seems a little bit to me like trolling for likes. I felt even more negatively about the whole thing when I got to this part of the website – “71 percent of people tried to complete this challenge but failed, quoting lack of time as the main reason. These people simply did not have the time to be happy. Do you?”
Hold it right there, judgmental 100 Happy Days people. Just because I don’t think it’s necessary to share with the world that I’m eating a really great Collis soup or found a super cute outfit for meetings (because hello, self-call much?) doesn’t mean I don’t have time to be happy! In fact, the insinuation makes me actively unhappy. Good job, guys.
I could whine about this some more, or I could share with you all what I’ve done about it. I trust you are all familiar with the sexting app best new app ever, Snapchat. For the unfortunate souls who are not, Snapchat lets you send pictures to your friends within the app that they can view for a specific number of seconds. More importantly, it introduced the “My Story” feature, which allows you to pin a picture to your profile for 24 hours, viewable by any of your friends.
Now that the Snapchat primer is over, we can get to the point. What annoyed me so much about the 100 Happy Days campaign was its public, in-your-face nature – “I have time to be happy AND make myself look tan with this filter (#livingwithmybitches #live) – do you?” But Snapchat stories aren’t in your face at all – I can’t make anyone look at any of mine. And a solution was born – instead of being grateful for my banana, I was going to point out how ridiculous it is that it’s still snowing in April. Hence #100SnarkyDays, Snapchat edition, was born. Besides, being snarky about things that I think are stupid makes me happy, so ironically I’m achieving the whole point of the campaign anyway.
For those of you who are my Snapchat friends, congratulations! The world is your oyster, and you get an exclusive look at the inner workings of my brain. For those of you who are not, sorry, but no randos allowed. Don’t worry – all hope is not lost. Below is a sampling of snarky thoughts – exclusive to Dartbeat – that almost made the cut. Or maybe they did and I just forgot about it.
- At the rate we’re going, Green Key is going to be cold and wet. This cannot happen. Do you hear me, weather gods?
- I understand that high schoolers need to visit Dartmouth to make the decision that will determine the next four years of their lives, but could they maybe not walk in rows of five down Mass Row when I’m trying to get to class? This applies to everyone else who does this, too.
- Anonymous randos need to stop commenting on D articles and get a life. I’m looking at you, “fribble.”
- I heard a ’17 call Topside “Collis Market” the other day and felt a sudden strong urge to stab him with a pencil.
- There is still nothing worse than having $200 of DBA left at the end of the term and remembering that you can’t order KAF cakes for next term anymore.
- Rugby games are a lot less rowdy than I thought they would be. Where’s your spirit, Dartmouth?
- When is somebody going to publish an op-ed that adds something new to the “does the Greek system suck” debate?
- Why can’t people play Ultimate Frisbee somewhere else?
- A corollary to this: why don’t people wear shoes on the Green? Dogs go to the bathroom there, you know.
- Another, more important corollary: why are there people that don’t wear shoes in frat basements? Do you WANT to die of staph?
Well, this column was due two hours ago and I feel like I’ve written enough, so that’s all for now. You can apply to be my Snapchat friend via blitz.
P.S. Hey ’14s – 43 days.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the College recently got the largest single donation in its entire history – $100 million. It was an anonymous gift, which for me conjures up images of a masked ninja swooping in through a window with a giant check or pot o’ gold and swooping back out so no identities are revealed.
Besides the “Who is this moneybags?” question, there is a lot more I am wondering about this donation. Where will the money go? Could the timing of this vote of confidence have been better, at a time when Dartmouth is quickly becoming a national joke? Who has that much money anyway? I’m talking about have-your-own-fleet-of-jets money, throw-as-much-shade-as-you-want-and-nobody-can-say-anything-about-it money. If I had that much money, my toilets would for sure be made of gold. I could build my own college with that much money.
But I digress. Here’s what we know – half of the money will be going to build out the academic experience at Dartmouth, and there is a matching program through the end of 2015 that will double the donation. I have more than a few suggestions for where else the money could go.
Febreze the Green
I’m all for sustainability and using natural fertilizer (although there is absolutely no way that blue powder they use to cover the Green is natural), but you know you’ve gone astray when the entire school smells like horse manure for two weeks after the snow melts. Let’s spring for some air freshener or invest in some kind of fertilizer that won’t make campus smell like a zoo.
Build some warmcuts
Winters here aren’t that bad, even though we complain literally all the time. ’17s, you’ll see – this year was an aberration, and it hasn’t been that bad since my freshman winter. Regardless, going out in the winter sucks (unless you live in the Choates). Going out after the winter when it rains and then freezes at night is even worse. Putting some tunnels that lead from every dorm into every basement would make us much safer, and not to mention, how cool would that be?
Bring back Homeplate paninis
Yeah, ’14s are the only people at this school that remember the glory of Homeplate. No, we’ll never stop mourning. How much can a couple of panini presses, a weekly order of waffle fries and some nice bread cost? Definitely not $100 million.
Make a Marauder’s Map
Two things are guaranteed at Dartmouth – Keystone and Murphy’s Law. No matter how great your grades are or how sweet your internship is, this school is simply too small to avoid all the people you don’t want to see when you don’t want to see them. Fall down the stairs? Had a horrendously embarrassing hookup? Did something stupid at tails? The people who saw you will be in Collis while you’re waiting for stir-fry. You will run into everybody who you have ever humiliated yourself in front of. It’s just a fact, and could totally be rectified with a Marauder’s Map. Awkward encounters, be gone.
Bring back the party packs
Because there is nothing better than breadsticks and marinara sauce at 2 a.m.. Nothing.
Hire some snow sculpture professionals
Remember when our snow sculptures were works of art? Yeah, neither do I. We used to have pirate ships, majestic castles and the Cat in the Hat. Let’s get ourselves trained and restore the Mardi Gras of the North to its former glory.
Build some better parking
A-Lot is just too freaking far.
This is a serious suggestion. Is having a printing system that never stops working two minutes before you’re supposed to hand in your final papers too much to ask? Or when you’re behind that guy who hasn’t done any of the reading and is printing out a stack of 800 pages and the printer decides to just stop working and spit out balls of crumpled, toner-less crap? Actually, that last one could probably be dealt with if we were half as committed to our classes as we are to finding the perfect flairy outfit for tails.
Donate some real hot tubs to frat row
Nobody needs to get staph from soaking in a claptrap wood-plank-and-tarp contraption. Besides, they’re less controversial than kiddie pools.
Get Beyoncé for Green Key