While the title of this blog post is of course (mostly) a joke, I’ve learned an important lesson over the last 19 years and 11 months of my life, and I’d like to share it here. Before coming to Dartmouth–or any other institution, for that matter–think critically about the way you approach your own happiness. At the end of the day (or your life), your happiness will have mattered in a serious, serious way. And I firmly believe that the way you go about finding it should reflect that level of paramount importance.
(Photo: Kelsey Biddle ’17)
Throughout my two years at Dartmouth thus far–and especially this summer–I’ve heard complaints of disappointment and unfulfilled expectations. “I thought sophomore summer was supposed to be the best time of my life, but it’s pretty normal. Almost boring, actually.” “Dartmouth promised me a lot of things in its admissions brochure that didn’t quite turn out to be true.” “Everyone told me that college would be the best four years of my life, but it just doesn’t seem like it is.”
Before continuing, I’d like to clarify that complaints like these are not unique to Dartmouth, by any means. Many of my friends at other schools report similar feelings of disillusionment with their college experiences, and each thinks that it is the fault of their school or their environment.
Too often, the question seems to be: What did my school not do for me? However, it is much more important that we adopt a Kennedy-esque revision: What have I not been doing for myself?
While I acknowledge that my own experience does not necessarily reflect the experiences of others–I have certain advantages and disadvantages in virtue of being who I am that allow and prevent me from doing various things–I am led to believe that the vast majority of complaints about unhappiness at Dartmouth are unfounded.
I absolutely love it here. My friends are some of the best I could ask for. My professors and classes have taught me more than I ever anticipated. Sophomore summer has been a truly incredible time–not far from the “Camp Dartmouth” about which I’d heard so many stories. And the last two years I’ve spend in Hanover have probably been the best of my life.
And I genuinely mean that.
This blog post may seem like an attempt to justify the imperfections of Dartmouth; it is not. Instead, it is an attempt to show that Dartmouth gives us ample opportunities to live the fulfilling, happy lives that we all wanted upon graduating high school. It should be obvious that our happiness will not be handed to us in gift-wrapped boxes, but Dartmouth has left such boxes all around for us to discover ourselves.
And so, I may have been alive for less than two decades, but the lesson I wish to impart now is simple: Fulfill your own sophomore summer, college experience, and life in general. Dartmouth wants to help you do so.
Eat with friends.
Initiate meaningful conversations with friends.
Initiate meaningful conversations with strangers.
Write something for your own personal benefit.
Go whitewater kayaking.
Find rope swings.
Study what you love. Learn outside the classroom.
Listen to a new genre of music.
Remember to smile. Laugh.
Don’t just look at the glass as half-empty or half-full. There is water all around us–fill your own glass the rest of the way.
I’ll end this post as I have in the past. I love this place, and if you have any questions about why you might not, please email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a happy, full-glassed summer, and I hope to see you on campus in the future!