Have you ever participated in a Battle of the Stressed? It's certainly one of the most common conversational themes. No doubt a friend has approached you moaning about the two papers he needs to write, six books he has to read and 13 exams he needs to study for, all before he goes to his 11 club meetings, only with you retorting that not only do you have to do all that, but you have to do it all with your left hand since you broke your other one participating in one of your five sports.
News flash: it's an Ivy League school; EVERYONE is busy. Get used to it, because you will have something to do every minute of every day for as long as you're here, and then you'll be working even longer just to pay off the loans you needed to take out just so you could be privileged to stress so much. But having lots of work to do is just not a valid reason for complaint; besides, if you say anything, you'll have to listen to everyone else's sob stories as well.
Not to say you don't have a reason to be stressed, and not to say you should cover it up because venting is a perfectly healthy form of release. However, one of the perks of going to Dartmouth is that we're going to school in one of the most truly beautiful settings in the country, and it's a crime against nature and yourself not to do all you can to appreciate that. One of my strongest memories from freshman year was sitting in the Tower Room, bogged down as usual with work, and then glancing out of the window across the Green and suddenly thinking, "This is so cool, I'm stressed beyond belief at DARTMOUTH!" Just then I appreciated what it meant to be lucky enough to be a student here.
I returned home that winter eager to show my friends how exciting my life at Dartmouth had been, immediately whipping out all my pictures. Among them were all the pictures with the candidates campaigning here last year and all the news trucks here proclaiming their presence. But my friends didn't care about my brush with fame; what stuck out more to them was the background. One friend in particular dropped her jaw and uttered, "I wish I could go to school in New Hampshire; I'd be able to write poetry for the rest of my life."
All right, that might be a bit of a sentimental stomach-full, but look beyond the cheesy faade of the quote to understand what it really means. One of the biggest factors in most of our decisions to come here was the setting, but in the midst of all our work, some of us completely forget that a world beyond textbooks even exists. Just think about it: many of your parents probably made a deliberate attempt to visit you with the ulterior motive of getting a look at the New England countryside in the fall (fortunately, mine weren't among them). Busloads of tour groups drive through to take advantage of the scenery. And we LIVE here.
I'm probably just as stressed-out as the next person, but I do have to say that for a moment I forgot about all that when I was standing at the intersection of South Main and Wheelock in front of Collis and looked down the street in all four directions. At the end of each street were hills coated in every fall color I ever knew existed plus some I didn't. I was trying to explain how amazed I was to my girlfriend and, as they usually do, my words came out sounding about as incoherent as a typical column. Moments like that really make you realize how spoiled you can be.
It may seem ironic that we live in a true natural oasis while being isolated in an expansive desert of schoolwork (please try to hold your applause for that stunning metaphor). Work needs to be done, and stress is work's characteristic sidekick, but we all need a breather now and then. When you go to school in an environment like this, taking a breather is entirely too easy, but we've all become spoiled and usually completely ignore the fact that some people travel hundreds of miles to see what lurks just outside our window if we'd take the time to look.
Fall will be over soon; lots of the trees around campus have already shed their leaves, and I even caught a glimpse of a snow flurry the other day. So if you're walking over to Collis to get some coffee so you can stay awake to write one of those papers, take just a second to see what we have here and to think of what you could be missing if you were unlucky enough to go to school anywhere else. I think I'll revert to living vicariously through you, though, because I have some studying to do.