A Farewell to Rage
Most of life's decisions are just Coke versus Pepsi," my professor once explained.
There's a lot of pressure when you first set foot on a college campus having been told by everyone to expect the best four years of your life, especially when most of us chose Dartmouth on a whim. Yet in the end it fit the bill, didn't it?
There is a vibrancy about the place that caused Dwight D. Eisenhower to remark, "This is what a college should look like," when he visited in the 1950s, and a dangerous line bordering on self-destruction crossed by F. Scott Fitzgerald when he got too drunk to write his screenplay about Winter Carnival.
No matter what people go through at Dartmouth, my experience talking to alums young and old is that the memories are vivid. I remember catering for Reunions last year, when I came across a '33, walking very slowly across the way. We got to talking, and when I asked him what had changed the most about Dartmouth, his eyes grew sad. "I just went to my old dorm, Topliff. The numbers on the door are completely different now back then they used to have letters." A good deal of other things seem to have changed as well, but the old man illustrated how personal minute parts of the Dartmouth experience can be.
The most universal experience that Dartmouth seniors are celebrating is the close friendships they've made here. Whether through our Greek houses, sports teams, activist clubs or DOC trips, we've all made such incredible bonds here that we are statistically bound to marry each other. College life didn't really take off until I had found an unbreakable posse with which I could go on spontaneous road trips all weekend, go to Food Court for lunch and down Red Bulls in midterm-driven anxiety.
Academics always set the bass line, and off terms could seem unwieldy without them. But aside from training me how to write 10 pages of intense analysis in a matter of hours, I was sometimes unsure as to whether a traditional liberal arts education was still relevant. My friend Will, a math major, put it succinctly when he complained, "I haven't seen a real number in two years." My friends and I all agree that we learned at least as much outside the classroom as we did in it. Over the course of college, politics and raging became my primary extracurricular past times, the former presenting me with more viable career options. My IT moment in the world of politics came when I had the honor of introducing Senator John Kerry before a capacity crowd at the Rockefeller Center. Under heat from his campaign manager, and convinced the event would fail, I was overawed when I saw students climbing construction ladders and breaking into the professors' lounge. I then introduced the presidential candidate, whom I had never met before, and sat back with my peers as he methodically explained how he was going to change the world. At the end I shared an awkward hug with on stage (he's even skinnier in person), before going on to spend many, many hours working on his behalf.
The raging was great too, from the epic pong tournaments and "meetings" to the schemes, pranks and missions that crossed every line ever drawn in the sand.
I'm not sure administrators, sociologists and parents will ever fully understand raging. I'm not sure many of us do either, but I can vouch that it wasn't about rebellion against our parents, or pressure induced self-destruction, or any of those negative things -- it was about having an awesome time singing "Tiny Dancer" together in basements, dancing with cute girls and watching movies all night before getting breakfast at the Hop the next morning.
I've been to over two dozen colleges on road trips, and never found better people or a more fun time. If I had to do it all over again, I would still apply early to Dartmouth, with less hesitation than four years ago.
Bob Dole once said, "The mainstreaming of deviancy must come to an end," and it is odd how much I disagree with a man who is technically my national fraternity brother. We've made it this far after all, and deviancy will bring us to where we want to go. We're entering into a world that will be increasingly controlled by the dark specter of terrorism and the Christian right, whose obsession with cutting taxes and discriminating against gays reflects a profound misunderstanding of the Sermon on the Mount and the Book of James.
It's gonna be crazy. When I lamented as much to my friend Kristin, she responded calmly, "Sh*t happens It just seems to happen a lot more often these days."