Aaron Pellowski

Apr 152014
 

Freshmen: a delight to behold

All newly freed from the mold

Of those halcyon days

of highschooler haze

Most of them eighteen years old!

Sophomores: they know the rules

Or think they do, surely not tools

Who slam paddles all night

The Op-Eds they write

Leave readers in puddles and pools

 

Juniors: hold terror at bay

Graduation a few terms away!

What will Bridgewater say

Of my resume?

When I drop it on Dartboard today?

 

Seniors: begin to diverge

Experience emotional surge

I LOVE DARTMOUTH” or

“The Green I’ll always abhor”

To each his own method of purge

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Mar 272014
 

DEAR EIGHTEENS: 

I’m going to tell you how to be the best Worst Class Ever.

Unlike my boy Alex Libre ‘16, who just confessed his timid inability to share the secrets of the Dartmouth Experience, I’m about to mother-bird some heaping helpings of “awesome, all-encompassing, inspiring advice for what to expect in the next chapter of your life” straight into your peeping little freshman maws. Chew slowly and savor it.

Step One: Crack open six root beers, pour them them into plastic cups (extra foam), garnish with a dirty ping pong ball. Now drink them all in under 10 seconds. Now read everything you can on the internet related to lacrosse, heteronormativity and Dr. Seuss. Done? Congratulations, you’ve just won Dartmouth in miniature.

It should actually look quite like this.

Step Two: Recognize that getting into Dartmouth isn’t the greatest accomplishment of your entire life. It’s a big deal, but honestly, not THAT big. When, in hoary ages past, former President Jim Kim lifted my glowing application from the stack of MAYBE’s and deposited in the sacrosanct vessel of YES’s, he did not automatically confer upon me some guaranteed future of prestige, fanfare, endless cash, Keystone and yachts festooned with pretty girls and first edition English novels. If I want those things (and I DO) I have to get them for myself, starting on Day One. Your freshman grades and your freshmen friendships matter more than any others because they will cut you the deepest, infecting you with the personal standards that will predominate internally for the next four years. So amid the neon Bacchanalia of Trips and Orientation, remember your mission here is simple: work hard and do great things.

Pictured: Former President Jim Kim, notably not the sole architect of AP15′s success.

Step Three: Develop a Stockholm Syndrome-y relationship with some place. I like the 1902 Room, the Graveyard, and the cluster of pine trees behind Zete. It’s nice to have a home base where you can collect your thoughts and settle down from time to time.

A nice place to take a summer afternoon nap. I’ve literally rested in peace here.

Step Four: Don’t be evil. For the love of Jove, please don’t do evil things. Every once in a while, step back ask yourself “Is what I’m doing evil? Am I setting a good example? Are my actions hurting other people?” Recent research has suggested that just asking this question of oneself once per week could prevent upwards of 17.69% of all evil.

Pictured: Pure evil. Immorality is B-Side anyway.

Step Five: Do all the stupid traditions, but make fun of them the whole time. Ledyard Challenge, Dartmouth 7, Touch The Fire, pictures with Keggy. Trust me, these are all monumentally idiotic, banal, hyped-up endeavors. But do them anyway. Self-congratulatory Outsiders have nothing to be proud of. Don’t fall prey to their siren song either. Participate, but make sure your actions always contain a healthy infusion of irreverence.

Pictured: Ivy League Students.

Final Step: (This is the most important step of all. Steps 1-5 were just foreplay.)

Make someone your hero. So much of the good that’s done at Dartmouth takes the form of protest, criticism, calling out injustice and evil. This is important, but we constantly forget to make space for worshiping the people who do creative, not destructive good. There are many vague and uninspiring institutions in place at Dartmouth for celebrating others, and you can join them if you like. But take the time to find people whom you can love and revere for their own sake, and on your own terms. By far the greatest spans of happiness I’ve enjoyed in the past three years are owed almost entirely to my relationships with just a few people. A 12, a 14, a few 15s and a 17. These people kept me from drowning and irreparable collapse into the dark, arctic, alcoholic slushhole that Hanover sometimes feels like. Find these people for yourself. You will never forget them.

Where have all the good men gone? And where are all the gods?
Where’s the street-wise Hercules? To fight the rising odds?

That’s just about all I got for now. If you didn’t really read this whole post, the basic gist is: drink root beer, don’t be evil, stay sassy.

Beloved 18s, I want you to realize you have big shoes to fill. Every year in late spring when the seniors graduate, Dartmouth loses a thousand geniuses, beauty queens and individuals of indomitable irony in a burst of early summer fire. By fall, the phoenix of Dartmouth will swallow you all and resurrect itself anew from amid the ashes. It is up to you to make life beautiful.

Extra Credit: Say hi to my little brother Braden Pellowski ‘18. He’s a teeny bit shy but is in desperate need of love and friendly affection. Anything from a smile to a Collis coffee date would really boost his whole day!

 

 

Mar 132014
 

Among many other things, this term has been a term of bananas. As a food that’s eminently portable, fun to eat, provocatively-shaped, available at every one of Dartmouth’s dining locations, bananas have long exerted an occult power over me that reached its climax in the early days of Winter Term, 2014. I’ve been eating bananas non-stop, in and out of class. As I write, a pile of peels sits next to me on the desk, looking for all the world like the corpse of a black and yellow octopus. I’ve also discovered that a banana makes for a handy apparatus for gesturing vigorously at a fellow student who’s just said something out of line, or as microphone when conducting a hard-hitting interview with an important campus figure. I’ve littered my text messages with the banana emoji, in singles and pairs, leaving my conversational partners to wonder at the tantalizing meaning of my messages.

I have even come to identify with a particular banana, whom I met mid-way through January. On the back porch of the Black Visual Arts center, which I’ve passed each Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning on the way to class, lies a banana. This miserable specimen of fruit has escaped custodial eye, stranded endlessly on the chilled cement like a high-potassium Ariadne. As the temperature has swung up and down, the banana has repeatedly re-frozen and thawed, causing its process of putrefaction and blackening to get drawn out agonizingly over a period of ten weeks, that should have lasted no more than ten days.

When I wake up in the morning, the first thought that enters my head is “Humanity is doomed. You are doomed. Facebook, yolo, Real Housewives, Kindles, Upworthy, Miley Cyrus…these are the reasons God doesn’t talk to us anymore.” With these grim and menacing thoughts clouding my mind like a wreath of bats, I shuffle out of Topliff and in the direction of class.

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[Pictured: Aaron Pellowski '15]

But then I catch sight of the banana. “Hello again, banana,” I think. “You’re looking a little limper than last time. If it weren’t for the hard cold air, I’m sure your odor would be sweet and violently pungent. It is only your lack of segmentation that distinguishes you from a turd in the eyes of passers-by. But I know what you really are, on the inside. And I’m proud you’ve survived.”

This has been a trying term for me, but like the banana, I’ve resisted rotting into a dark puddle of despair. In all seriousness, the banana hasn’t been more than a symbol, but it is a symbol for the real phenomenon of collective angst. We here at Dartmouth understand ourselves to be high-achievers, the smartest cookies in the box. We set preposterous expectations for ourselves, seemingly for no better reason than testing the limits of our raw human capacities. Happiness, self-care, therapy of any form: these aren’t just forms of giving up, they’re forms of selfishness. I was sick for nearly a third of this term, but I still attended class with an ear infection that made it almost impossible to hear. I wanted my friends to see me persisting in spite of my difficulty, just in case any of them were dangerously close to completely giving up. We inspire each other with our success, but we grasp our collective humanity when we suffer.

This term saw superhuman achievement on the part of our student athletes at the Olympics and the Ivy Heptagonals. As a community, we enjoyed explosive, unenvious pride at their accomplishments. But this in this same term, we lost a son, and then a daughter of our family. And another daughter was made the victim of unspeakable violence that came from within our own ranks. It was in those wordless hours when we brought our fists of celebration down to our hearts and held them there, feeling the ebb and throb that remind us that we are human, and that we owe each other everything.

 

The 1902 Room

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Mar 072014
 

Flanking the lawn before Baker Library is a large, one-room building of two-story proportions. It’s called the 1902 room and it’s always open. It contains about ten long, broad wooden tables, each paired with a portrait of an important figure from the college’s history. Their expressions range from stern and stoic to friendly and bemused. They’re all men. One of them is named Craven Laycock.

When, just before 2AM hits, Baker’s PA system plays its startling announcement that the facilities proper are about to close, a moribund train of book-weary students begins to shuffle into the 1902 room and set up shop for the rest of the night. While some prefer Novack cafe, also a 24-hour space, and others retire to dormitory study rooms, the atmosphere of the 1902 room sustains a ghostly appeal to others. Just why is an engima. I don’t know whether the 1902 room has anything like a self-aware culture surrounding it, though some of us talk about it like it does. But the mere mention of a night spent laboring in the 1902 room evokes near-universal recognition of what is considered a thoroughly punishing experience. There is no bathroom, and only one door leading to the outside. When that door opens, especially during the winter, a gale of freezing air enters the room, causing students to grimace and pull their pants further down over their ankles. The 1902 room is quiet, but not silent, so while conversation is instantly met with a host of hostile turned-around stares, the littlest cough or spurt of flatulence is audible to all. There is a ceaseless chorus of chair-creaking and inadvertent sighing. The lights, which never turn off, are so bright that in the brain of the sleepless they emit an oppressive noise of their own.

Last winter I took Intensive Ancient Greek, a choice which, while intellectually rewarding, turned out to be titanically masochistic. In order to succeed on the final exam, I spent the last weeks of the term camped out in the 1902 room surrounded by a books. 20 half-empty coffee-cups and unwashed clothing. I only left to go to class and eat once a day. I slept in sporadic cat-naps on a couch near the front of the room beside a defunct fireplace. Over the course of that period, I developed a supernatural, delirious attachment to the 1902 room which, though it was forged in agony, gave rise to great feelings of nostalgia the following term when I was abroad.

Finals period looms like a mouthful of fangs and once again I find myself serving out huge terms in the 1902 room. This space represents one component of my Dartmouth experience that, compared to the first five I’d name off the top of my head when asked, is relatively minor. Nevertheless, it is one I’ll never forget, and one which, as I reflect on it, has a unique sheen to it. As a budding freshman, I would have never anticipated forming this kind of queer relationship with an otherwise uninteresting room. And that raises a question which we should all be asking ourselves as we undertake and begin to exit the turbulent, four-year project of college: what familiar things have become strange, and what strange things familiar?

 

Feb 262014
 

In this century, college is marketed to prospective applicants as a paradise of diversity. In and out of class, undergraduates hope to gain exposure to a wide range of perspectives that harmonize with and challenge the experience they accumulated before entering higher education. This can come in many forms: racial, intellectual, political, artistic, athletic—you name it.

But there’s another kind of diversity we don’t talk about as much, though its value is immense and shouldn’t be elided. This is what I’d call personal diversity, and it’s something you can pick up a lot of at Dartmouth, provided you’re willing to put a little work in.

Personal diversity means entertaining many different kinds of experiences in your own, daily life. It goes beyond the ordinary diversity in which we find ourselves surrounded, like it or not, with people who offer us counternarratives. Personal diversity means filling our days with activities that don’t match up with what we normally do, or did when we were in high school.

Here’s an example of how I try to achieve personal diversity, all drawn from the past four hours. I’m a philosophy and classics major, and I sing in the A Capella group called the Dartmouth Cords (arguably Dartmouth’s best-looking all-male A Capella group). If I wanted to, I could fill my hours, minutes and days with just going to class, rehearsal, doing homework, and taking the occasional nap.

But when there’s so much else to do at Dartmouth, that can never be enough. At 7pm, I went to a showing of an avant-garde film in Thornton Hall with members of my Philosophy of Art class. At 8pm, I drove into West Lebanon with ten members of the Dartmouth Classics Society (of which I’m the co-founder) and saw the new 3D movie, Pompeii. We relished in inaccuracies and hypertheatrics of the movie: overall a really splendid time.

I came back and went straight to the library, where I confirmed an appointment to meet with a preeminent scholar of Greek sexuality to whom one of my own professors referred me. Then I went to get a tea and a couple bags of chips from Novack Cafe; on the way I picked up the latest edition of Apologia, Dartmouth’s (extremely well-done) publication on Christianity and Theology. I’m not a Christian, but I love to read my peers’ work.

Just the same, as I stood in line, I chatted with a writer for the Dartmouth Review, Dartmouth’s notorious conservative-leaning newspaper, about the recent ‘Freedom Budget’ proposal that was sent out to campus, a document addressing a multitude of perceived deficiencies in Dartmouth’s academic and social atmosphere. I’m not a conservative, but i enjoy hearing what smart people have to say about campus climate, even when I disagree.

Now I’m back in the 1902 room, jamming away at my research for the Classics Department and drinking my tea.

The story of my evening could have been: I went to the library, did some homework, and went to bed. But that would be the story of someone who either didn’t know –or didn’t care–about the swarm of little opportunities Dartmouth provides to make each bit of our day a little more sparkly. By some degree I’ve enhanced my personal diversity today, and I’m going to try to do the same tomorrow. I have Dartmouth to thank.

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A scene from the new ‘Pompeii’ movie. A real thrill.