The Many Realities of Jonathan Gault
In "Men in Black 3," a character named Griffin sees all possible realities simultaneously. Yes, I just referenced "Men in Black 3." 13S, don't care. I believe the way Griffin experiences life is a pretty good way to think about how all of us experience college.
I will graduate in a couple weeks after a wonderful four years in Hanover. I will leave not only with an Ivy League degree but a great group of friends and hundreds of memories, good and bad. Yet I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I chose to go to Columbia, which was a close second to Dartmouth as my top choice. And really, I would have left with the same three things: an Ivy League degree, a great group of friends and hundreds of memories, good and bad.
And sure, there are a lot of things unique to Dartmouth that I would have missed out on, but as a school, we may not be quite as unique as we like to think we are. When I first discovered Late Night Collis, I thought it was the best thing ever. Then I remembered that, on my visit to Columbia, they had a place that offered the exact same laid-back atmosphere and late night dining.
I would have missed out on things like the Homecoming bonfire, running the scenic trails that surround our campus and pong. But there are amazing things in New York City that I missed out on by coming here.
I don't even have to limit it to Dartmouth and Columbia. I probably could have gone to a hundred different schools and been happy. In all of those realities, I would have had essentially the same things, even if the details of each reality aren't quite the same. Though never playing pong would have sucked.
But, just as Voldemort made Harry Potter special by choosing to pursue him upon hearing Sybill Trelawney's prophecy, I made Dartmouth special to me by choosing to matriculate here. Every one of us is united by that one fact: out of everywhere else we could have possibly gone, we all chose, for one reason or another, to come here. That's pretty cool.
It goes further than that though. Those alternate realities also extend to every choice I made in Hanover since I arrived in September 2009, and to some things that I had no control over whatsoever.
I could have been born in 1990, instead of 1991. But I wasn't, and for that reason, the '13s will always be closer to me than any other class.
I could have chosen not to run cross country here. But I did, and that's why my closest friends are all runners, not members of some other campus organization.
I could have chosen to rush a fraternity. But I didn't, and that's why my pong game is mediocre at best.
Every other Dartmouth student faces choices like these, and how we respond has a massive impact on our lives. It's akin to reading a book versus hearing a one-sentence summary. The quick and dirty version of my college experience, the stuff relegated to a book's dust jacket, was probably going to be the same no matter where I went for school: make friends, try to become a sports writer. But the everyday choices I made here determined the details of that book: the major characters, the recurring themes, the conflicts and resolutions. I knew the ending before coming to Dartmouth. Now that I've read the pages, that book means a lot more.
So when I walk across the stage to receive my diploma next month, I'll spend a moment thinking about everything that could have been. But I'll spend a lot longer thinking about what actually was: multiple treks to LNC every week, countless workouts on the golf course, Leverone and Memorial Field and long nights at The Dartmouth waiting for final edits on stories.
I'm guessing that, within these pages, my fellow seniors will spend many words on what Dartmouth meant to them, what they loved, what they hated, what they learned. And over the next month, a whole lot more people other seniors, professors, alums are going to be talking about what makes this place so special and great.
Just remember that this is but one reality among many. Most of us would probably have had a great time no matter where we went to college. Dartmouth is awesome because we chose to make it so.
Hold on, I just realized that there exists a reality where I go to Brown and end up marrying Emma Watson. Can I get a do over?