An End Without An Answer

by Evan Meyerson | 3/27/08 1:56am

T-minus 73 days. After 11 terms, 33 classes and the greatest three-plus years of my life, the end is shockingly near. A mere ten weeks of glory separate the Class of 2008 from that mythical frontier called "the real world." On the eighth day of June, more than 1,000 Dartmouth students, including this writer, will suddenly become alumni.

I have a confession to make: I'm completely terrified of June 9. There is an irony when it comes to one's final term in college. The undeniable excitement of senioritis is mercilessly coupled with the horror of growing up. There is a harsh epiphany that hits the vast majority of seniors at some point during their final year. Whether it comes after you get into graduate school or receive a job offer or on graduation day itself, most of us will be faced with the cruel realization that our relatively carefree lives filled with limited responsibility are soon to become "the good old days."

Over the course of two decades of schooling, I've become accustomed to a lifestyle defined by consistency, even a sense of invincibility. My immediate goals have always been easily identifiable and straightforward. Do well in high school so you can go to a good college. Work hard in college so you can get a good job. The "future" beyond college has been little more than a cliche, over-the-horizon daydream. When I was five years old I wanted to be a knight in shining armor. When I was eight, I wanted to be Dick Tracy. When I was 14, I wanted to be president. There was a joyous intangibility and ambiguity to these visions -- it wasn't real, it was "the future."

But now, finally, the future begins in less than three months. For all its grandeur, for all its enchantment, the future is the ultimate unknown. Call me lame, call me unadventurous, but that unknown is now scaring the living daylights out of me.

I am not, nor might I ever be, someone who knows precisely what I want to do with my life. I know I want to be happy, but beyond that I'm largely clueless. Undoubtedly, having my whole life ahead of me is exhilarating. Nevertheless, I can't help but fear the day after graduation, when my structured, simple adolescence transforms into job-wielding, tax-paying, home-owning adulthood.

I fear an existence without winter break. I fear that total independence could become loneliness. I fear losing touch with those I have come to love at this school. I fear that I will look back on my college experience with certain regrets. I fear maturity. I fear reaching a point in my life at which I realize my dreams have come to represent little more than unfulfilled fantasies. I fear that this fear itself has led to some less than rational decision-making.

It is a rule of thumb when scribing a column for The Dartmouth that the writer should have a solution for a proposed problem. Yet there is no solution for the anxiety that characterizes one's last term of college. Becoming an adult is a fact of life without recourse and without escape. (But if you figure out a way to stop time, please let me know!)

We've all heard the same advice from those who came before us, who tell us we have to enjoy our time in college because it will be gone before we know it. Until graduation becomes a reality (i.e. when we it is ten weeks away), however, it is almost impossible to take such advice to heart.

Thus, we are seemingly left with one term to make everything count. But this is too much pressure! I've always believed the phrase "live every day to the fullest" is a bit unrealistic. Even third-term seniors will have long days of study. We will still procrastinate more than we should. We will still be stricken with sadness as 73 days fade to one. We won't party (well, most of us, at least), or go to the ledges or take stunning hikes through the White Mountains every single day. There will certainly be aspects of the Dartmouth experience on our personal "to-do" lists that we just won't get around to at all.

Perhaps our goal, then, can't be to have a "perfect" senior spring. What we can do, ultimately, is be truthful with and relish the emotions we will all feel as our time at Dartmouth climactically culminates.

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