Dear Future Julianna

by Julianna Docking | 9/17/15 7:56pm

9.18.15.JuliannaDocking_Eliza.McDonough
Julianna Docking '18 hopes to meet new people and try being uncomfortable during her next few years.
by Eliza McDonough / Eliza McDonough

I hope you’re well and not having the cliché, pre-senior year “where-is-my-life-going-I-want-to-be-a-student-forever” meltdown. I know you are — it’s O.K.

The version of you writing this is a rising sophomore, and — as to be expected — cannot even imagine that you are about to flee a world full of English papers, Chinese tests, grim Novack breakfasts, speed walks to the gym, spontaneous hikes, dance parties and unproductive Friday afternoons in the Periodicals.

No, I am currently delightfully entrenched in Dartmouth life — in meeting new people, analyzing why last spring term was so hard, making goals for this fall and choosing a major that is somehow both fulfilling and employable.

As a senior, you are probably tempted to roll your eyes at my unabashed naivety. You are writing cover letters, researching what a 401k is and wondering what it feels like to buy your own groceries. You are probably scoffing at me for being consumed by things so silly and transient, for embracing the Dartmouth bubble so wholeheartedly. But please, don’t.

Look back fondly on the delightfully blissful, endlessly optimistic, wide-eyed and sophomoric version of yourself who is writing this. It is okay that I am consumed by Dartmouth right now, just like it is okay that you are consumed with thoughts of your future. Sophomore Julianna is exploring every crevice of campus, reflecting on every seemingly mundane moment, considering every fleeting club option. And as a senior, you have probably now emerged with a clear sense of your place at here on campus. But please, remember that letting Dartmouth consume you was part of the process. Don’t regret it.

That, wiser Senior-Year Julianna, is the only piece of advice that I can possibly give you. The rest of this letter is filled with hopes.

I hope that you have found peace in the choices you have made. Right now, there is so much comfort in the fact that everything is so wide open. I still feel like I can major in anything, be anything and do anything. As a senior, that’s probably no longer the case. You have chosen, and as a result some routes are now irrevocably blocked off. I hope that this doesn’t make you sad.

I hope that you do not feel trapped by the choices you have made, but instead feel oddly empowered in having narrowed your options. I hope you have finally accepted that you will never be a doctor despite how noble and exhilarating it appears on “Grey’s Anatomy.” I hope you have at last admitted that although you love the sound of “Senator Docking,” you are neither passionate nor knowledgeable about politics and will probably never work on Capitol Hill. I hope you feel empowered in having accepted who you are and who you are not. I hope you can relish in these simple realizations, even though you’re still a mess of tangled interests, goals and expectations. I hope you feel strength in having closed doors.

I hope that you have learned to be truly happy for others, the type of happiness that is not accompanied by any lingering jealousy. I hope that when you hear of your peers’ accomplishments you no longer need to justify in your mind why you cannot match their success. I hope you are able to congratulate others with unmistakably genuine admiration. I hope that petty, green-eyed monster has, slowly but surely, begun to flare up less and less in your life.

I hope that you will now set out to find pieces of Dartmouth in the “real world.” The good and the bad. Find the silliness and uninhibited joy of trips. Seek out situations that are as uncomfortable and constructive as office hours with your scary history professor. Talk to the people in elevators the way you talk to strangers in the KAF line after a long day. Find the sense of community in New York City or Los Angeles that you find during those 2 a.m. Novack run-ins. Find your own version of the river wherever you are living, a place where you can lounge and forget about your obligations. Also find your real world 1902 Room, where you get work done with no excuses. As you walk past an endless stream of individuals on a city street, remember those moments walking across the Green during the last four years when you would spot a stranger walking toward you from across the long diagonal path. Remember how, in these moments, you had to choose whether to raise your head and smile or keep your head down and pretend you did not see them. I hope you raise your head on that crowded city street and smile.

With one year down, I have already made mistakes and learned. Every choice I made during freshman year was geared toward making myself happy. I thought that happiness meant keeping myself comfortable. I got lunch with my best friend everyday instead of asking the random, unknown, smart girl in my Chinese class to grab Collis. I did not do the club that would require hard hours of work. I did not speak up in class if I felt my comment would not earn an impressed nod from my professor.

I have since realized that this kind of comfort, while enticingly safe, is empty.

As I stand on the precipice of sophomore year, I am hereby making a promise to myself that for the next three years I will strive to make myself as uncomfortable as possible.

I hope that, while reading this, you feel you have kept true on this promise. I hope you have applied for groups and opportunities that you knew would reject you. I hope you walked into FoCo all alone. I hope you spoke up in classes, regardless of whether your comment was as articulate as the person’s next to you. I hope you asked that intimidating but brilliant upperclassman in your class to get coffee. I hope you have been kind to yourself. But more importantly, I hope you have been brave.

And if you have done this, I think that my last hope for you will inevitably be fulfilled.

That is, I hope that at the end of the year, when you walk across the graduation stage in your cap and gown, grasp your diploma and look out over the Green, you are overcome with an indescribably euphoric mixture of exhaustion, joy and bewilderment. I hope you feel like you just ran the most ridiculously hard, hilarious, emotional and life-changing marathon imaginable. I hope that you try to extricate every memory, laugh, cry, struggle and moment that has taken place over the last four years of your life, desperately trying to understand what the hell just happened. Knowing full well that you never will.

I hope that as you look over the Green to find your family in the crowd and give them a thankful smile, you feel pride rise in your chest.

I hope you ran a good race.

From the sentimental and sophomore version of yourself,

—Julianna