A Galaxy of Transplanted Stars

by Janelle A. Ruley | 11/21/97 6:00am

I've got issues with being a fallen star.

We all came to Dartmouth following presumably stellar high school careers. We were at the top of our class academically, we were the student leaders, we were prime-time athletes, we were social, we partied, and we excelled. We were in control. Our lives made sense and they were simple, for the most part anyway. We were stars.

And then, all of a sudden, that perfect, me-centered world collapsed in on itself. It doesn't happen to everyone at the same time, but I think that for each of us here at Dartmouth, there comes a time when we begin to question the reality of our stardom. For me, it happened as soon as I met my fellow trippies. In talking with them, all I could think about was how much better prepared and smarter they were, how much more prepared they werethan I was to take Dartmouth by storm. I still held onto my self-confidence, though, and believed that I would certainly impact this institution. Sitting here typing in Kiewit now, I am reminded of my first Convocation, and listening to the '97 Student Assembly president, Jon Heavey, speak. I have goose bumps now, just as I did then. All I could think about was how awed by Jon's presence I was. He was a star. And I wanted to be just like him.

So I wanted to be a star. How was I going to do this? To begin with, I involved myself in the same types of organizations that I participated in during high school. I was a star in high school; my logic was that if I just did here what I did in high school, I could be a star again. And then everything would be copesetic and I could start having a huge impact on Dartmouth.

I have come to see the faults in this logic. First, I have realized, the definition I previously had of "being a star" was something impossible for me to achieve. What did it mean for me to be a star? It meant having a noticeable impact on the daily lives of each member of the Dartmouth community. My goal was intangible because it was undefined. One of my closest friends related to me a conversation she had with another friend during the summer. I'm paraphrasing here, but I think you will understand the gist of it:

"What do you want to do when you leave Dartmouth?"

"I want to affect peoples' lives in a big way everyday." [sound familiar?]

"That doesn't mean anything. Who do you see as affecting people like this?"

"Martin Luther King, Jr. Mother Theresa. Michael Jordan."

"Do you think Michael Jordan said to himself: 'I want to affect people in a big way. Hmm...here's a basketball. Maybe if I practice a lot, I can get really good, and then I can affect people that way.' No, he didn't say that. Michael Jordan played basketball because that's what he loved. Affecting people came secondarily."

This is what I was struggling with too. I felt as though I was lacking a passion: something to devote myself to completely.

Another fallacy in my aspirations toward stardom was that precedent-setting and policy-making wise, I am not irreplaceable. The things I do -- i.e. "committee work" -- could certainly be done by someone else. If there is a truism about Dartmouth, it is this: If you can't do it, someone else can. And someone else will. As jarring as that realization was for me, it woke me up and made me look at my accomplishments in an entirely different light. In high school, I believed I was irreplaceable. Heck, I was told I was irreplaceable. As I have no doubt many of you reading this were too. But irreplaceability simply does not exist here, save in one realm: friendships. I have finally let myself believe that I am a special component within my groups of friends, and I know that what I can and do do for my friends is irreplaceable. I am a star because I can make my friends smile.

As I said before, we were all stars when we came here. Somewhere deep down, I think we all want to be on a list like the one Eric Del Pozo published, highlighting "The People Who Make Dartmouth 'Dartmouth.'" [Oct.,The Dartmouth] I wonder how many people felt that they personally or their friends were ignored. The thing is, though, we are all on a list like that. It just doesn't happen to be Del Pozo's list, and it just doesn't happen to be a list printed in The Dartmouth. I think that we should allow ourselves to truly understand that we are on someone's list of stars. We all do things here that touch others and inspire others. And I hope that someday we all may be content in the knowledge that we are stars because we impact each other.

Rereading this column has brought me to my conclusion: I am not a fallen star; rather I am a translocated star. Even though I often feel that I am a fallen star, I think perhaps it is more accurate to say instead that I am a part of a galaxy. We are all stars here, even if we don't believe that all the time. I have never been in a place where I have been so consistently impressed by my peers. You are all amazing; you are all stars. And I am pleased to be a part of this galaxy with you.