Letter to My Freshman Self

by Mary Liza Hartong and Andrew Kingsley | 2/4/16 7:06pm

Dear Freshman Beth,

Just look at you. One hundred and fifteen pounds, coxswain for the rowing team, Merit Scholar, lead flautist in the marching band and still a natural blonde (wink). You can’t even imagine all of the interesting things awaiting you at Dartmouth. Happiness, agony, joy, surprise, excitement, crippling doubt, first loves, HPV. The thrill of it all! Take a deep breath. Now move across the street from the SAE trash heap and take another deep breath. That’s better.

Let’s start with classes. You’re taking economics, engineering, and “Writing 5,” not to mention your pre-med aspirations. Spoiler alert! You’re going to get straight C’s and drop those aspirations like the bass. Teehee! Blame it on the boogie! Your mom will say she’s “disappointed in you.” Translation: “I’m not paying for college anymore.” Whaddup, student loans! Good thing you’ve got all that economics knowledge under your belt to help you manage your debt. What a smart cookie you are. Supply and demand, am I right? Who knew a mother’s love could be a limited resource?

And what about your roommate situation? You’ve heard all the horror stories — messy, loud, rude, smelly, etc. Don’t worry, your roommate doesn’t have any of these flaws. She’s so different! First of all, she doesn’t speak. To anyone. Ever. Well, unless she’s screaming bloody murder during sex, every weeknight at 12:30 a.m. It’s like clockwork! Fret not, she will still steal every piece of clothing you own and every shred of dignity you once had. Teehee! What a character, am I right? She does take you to really cool parties, though. By parties I mean séances. Dark, wordless séances with screaming sex.

Hey, but what about your love life? Remember how you left high school Alex on the curb hoping to find mature love in college? Instead you found Craig, Jessica, Dustin, Scooter, Tina and Biggie, who all broke your heart within the short span of pre-orientation. Good news: you’re still in love with Biggie — I mean who isn’t? — but you can never tell him because restraining orders are, sadly, legally binding. But at least the Foco cookie baker gets you. He bakes you your own tray every Friday after a rough week. Oh Charlie, my sweet baker, if only you weren’t 65 and buried under student loans. Charlie was also once pre-med.

But enough about other people. Yawn! Let’s get back to you, or should I say, back to vous! Get ready for your French LSA, where the smell of baguettes and the sound of your classmates only speaking English fill the air. Mona Lisa? More like, Mona Loser, because that’s what everyone will call you when you want to experience French culture. But don’t worry, you’ll see the sites! You will fall off the Vespa of Raphael, the hunky Rutgers exchange student, under the Arc de Triomphe. Irony, huh? And your host family, let’s just say the only events they host are, you guessed it, more séances.

What?! It’s already sophomore summer. No lines at Hinman or KAF and the weather is beautiful. This is the summer of taking chances. Flitzing your TA, nude modeling, a trip to the emergency room due to nude modeling — guess what: you’re allergic to charcoal! On the bright side, no chimney sweeping for you. But you know what is for you? The farmer’s market. There you’ll find a tanned, sinewy farm hand. No, really, a hand, a real hand that was severed from a murdered farmer. The police think it was you. Forget your 12 because now you’re in front of 12 jurors who hate your Ivy League guts. Oh brother!

But wait, there’s more. Junior year’s a real knee slapper. You finally find yourself involved in a cheating scandal. When Biggie hands you a clicker and asks you to click it, you just assume he’s finally in love with you, so you click it every class excessively. Turns out, Biggie’s not in love with you and you just helped him cheat. Say what? Say one term of probation, living at home under the burning glare of your mom. She’s thrilled to have you back! She’ll burn all the television clickers at home to let you know.

But now you’ve made it. Senior year. You’ve learned a lot. The liberal arts treated you well. Knowing “troposphere” and “anaphora” will take you far. Especially since you have a great job with Teach for America teaching physical education to kindergartners in Alaska. Vox clamantis en deserto, am I right? One voice crying out incessantly for four years in the wilderness and continuing to cry in the wilderness of adulthood.

Love,

Me

P.S. Take off that goddamn lanyard.