Dear Mary Liza of September 2012,
Welcome to the great white North, you Mini Miss Scarlett, Baby Betty Crocker, Bite-Sized Blanche Dubois. Things are pretty different up here above the Mason-Dixon Line, aren’t they? Don’t worry, little muffin — you’ve still got your cowboy boots and your double name to keep you together.
Why, just look at you, unmistakably precious in your gingham button-down shirt, tiny blonde pigtails and arms full of freshly baked pumpkin bread — which you have enthusiastically baked for your first classmates in your first class ever at college. Why, one might ask, did you bake a loaf of pumpkin bread for your first classmates in your first class ever at college? Simple: This is exactly what you would have done in high school, that all-girls haven of plaid skirts, ubiquitous baked goods and steadfast matriarchs. Your gal pals would have loved a big ol’ slice of this stuff, therefore so will the buttoned-up New Englanders of your two o’clock class. How could this possibly spook or annoy a professor trying to hand out syllabi? Go get em’, girl. Joke as I may at your generous use of cinnamon and hand-sewn oven mitts, I do realize you only know one set of customs at this point, and that’s what you’re determined to use. You do you, Mary Liza. You do you.
Bake on, but don’t think you can fool me, you sneaky snipe. I know better than anyone that your desire to be loved based on your culinary prowess is not your only desire this fall. Little me, you have so many high hopes for Dartmouth. You expect colorful instructors with names like “Professor Vanderhoosy” and “Please Call Me Nadine.” You crave powerful lectures and novels that tip you upside down. And — it cannot be overstated how much you expect this one — you expect boys on boys on boys. You believe your first semester at Dartmouth will play out pretty much exactly like the plot of Taylor Swift’s 2008 hit “Love Story.” You’ll catch the eye of a cute boy — nay, lots of cute boys, because you, missy, are hot stuff — and from there your flawless love story will unfold. Will there be castles? You bet! Lantern lit lovers’ faces? Oh yeah! A part where he tells you to go pick out a white dress? Um, duh!
I hate to break it to you, toots, but your first semester will end up looking a bit more like Taylor Swift’s 2012 hit “We Are Never Getting Back Together.” In fact, in the course of your freshman year you’ll cycle through a number of Tay Sway songs in your quest for love, from “You Belong with Me” (2008) to “Enchanted” (2010) to, I’m sorry to say, “Bad Blood” (2014). What you don’t yet know is how to “Shake It Off.”
Universe, you will ask, why isn’t everything working out exactly according to plan? Where is my white picket fence? The Universe will say, honey — because the Universe is surely an old southern grandmother — things are working out exactly according to plan. Remember all the friends you made this year? Remember how many wonderful books you got to read? Remember, by golly, those beautiful leaves in the fall and those amazing stars in the winter? It seems to me you just haven’t been paying attention. And, as you pack up your quilts and boots in June and take one last look around the River Cluster, you will think, maybe I haven’t.
What I’m getting at, young me, is that you’ve got to stop being so hell-bent on procuring arm candy. You can barely vote, so there’s no need to start planning your family. Riddle me this: Did you spend four years working your patootie off to go to one of the top schools in the nation just to find a husband? No, little me, you absolutely did not. You did it all so you could experience something incredible. Good news: You will! In fact, here’s a sneak peak at some of the cool things you’ll do here that have nothing to do with finding Mr. Right. You’ll put on a musical with your best friends, elect a second major, write a novel, build a dollhouse, join an improv group, run a marathon and laugh your tuckus off with some of the best people on earth. Somewhere along the way, even with a lover’s horse blinders on, you’ll create your Dartmouth, which is not a wedding chapel but a collage of creativity and friendship. You’ll find yourself at a table at Late Night Collis, singing along with an acoustic guitar in a dorm hallway and at your own birthday party in the BEMA. The lover’s horse blinders will eventually fall off, leaving you with a clear view of everything wonderful that has happened and can happen.
Believe it or not, young ML, you will make it to senior fall never having fallen in love, single as a Pringle. Also, you’ll be the happiest you’ve ever been. So, listen close, you pig-tailed ninny. Dartmouth is about finding what— not whom — you love and doing it until the cows come home.
Happy first day of school, 19-year-old me. Bring that piping hot pumpkin loaf to class, but by all means, pay attention.