TTLG: No Proof Necessary

by Alexa Green | 5/29/19 2:05am


I’m a little bitter that the Hood is just now opening as we’re leaving. I wish I had more time there. I have spent hours wandering the art museum, marveling at Dartmouth’s well-funded resources at our fingertips. And there’s one painting that I keep coming back to: Mark Rothko’s “Lilac and Orange over Ivory.” It stands in stark contrast to my busy, frequently overloaded time running around this campus.

Each rectangle reads as a distinct color. The light purple, the color of orchids bleached by the sun, is set against an intense orange, demanding to be seen. They almost clash, barely separated by a thin off-white barrier. But the longer I look at it, my perspective shifts. The painting is a gentle confrontation, its effusive colors nudging and bleeding into one another so we cannot truly say which block has been imposed onto the other. There’s too much there to stay within such simple boundaries. Rothko’s canvas shows its love, and his attention is as legible as the written word. The nearly 10-foot-tall canvas is wrinkled in some parts, and there are water stains and visible streaks of paint in others, perhaps where Rothko lingered too long. It’s an abstraction of mess, maintaining the care to stay within its parameters but still inviting others in. The painting is seemingly straightforward, but complex. There is so much more to it. The massive scale of the canvas invites an audience to appreciate its interplay of colors, then revel in the emotional sentimentality of it. My time at Dartmouth has invited the same reflection.

I like to linger, to ruminate, question and marvel at the world around me. It’s going fast. In a painting with swaths of color, muted in their vibrancy, I suppose we’re searching for the murmurs of universal truth. It’s abstract, but there is an unshakeable feeling of something emanating from this opaque mirror. Maybe it’s my emotions, projected and moving beyond the rectangles, pushing boundaries. The colors remain familiar, adapting various identities in the blank space with all the time in the world.

My four years here have been spent exploring these blank spaces, searching for agency and looking to gain legitimacy in Dartmouth’s constant shifts. The intensity with which I dove headfirst into every possible College-branded activity originally stemmed from a deep-seated imposter syndrome. I applied to Dartmouth as an early decision applicant but was deferred into the regular decision pool and then waitlisted. Then, a week after my graduation during a family dinner, I received a call from Dartmouth’s admissions office asking if I’d be interested in a spot in the Class of 2019. Shocked, I vividly remember collapsing to the ground, choking out a sob: “Yes. Yes, I’d be very interested. Yes, definitely please.” 

The College had admitted me last minute, and I felt the desperate need to prove to “them” that they hadn’t made a mistake. Recognizing that now makes me want to laugh. Who is “them?” If I wasn’t a stereotypical brochure-worthy Dartmouth student, would my Dartmouth ID card be revoked? The answer is (most likely) no. Still, I sought to live up to my imagined standards. I jumped into activities and ran back and forth, rarely pausing between meetings. I felt the need to find ownership over some part of campus, looking for formative experiences that were deserving of meaning and that would reveal never-before-seen universal truths.

So, I joined The Dartmouth my freshman winter, taking on roles as a copy editor and then a writer — reveling in the joy of being in the newsroom and picking apart stories for typos and fact-checking details. Then, I applied to be a tour guide, a research assistant, a First-Year Fellow, a DREAM mentor and a Chabad board member. I played on the women’s club lacrosse team. While I was rejected for First-Year Fellows and DREAM, I proceeded to take on my new activities with vigor. They were obligations for communities I was excited to pursue. Being involved in so much made me feel more legitimate at Dartmouth, like I was deeply invested in this campus. Running around made me feel like I had purpose. 

Sophomore year, I started working for the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy as a public programs assistant — I was being paid to attend fascinating, if very niche, lectures about public policy and its impact on the world around us. While that was only one facet of my job, the idea that my employer also wanted to provide me with learning opportunities was such a new concept. I jumped for more responsibility and opportunities because I thought that’s what I should be doing. I wanted to be conscientious about my time here, and so I filled it with more chances for growth. Maybe I thought that if I grew enough and worked hard enough, I would earn my spot.

But what I should have realized is that I’m continually earning my spot. My being here is enough proof. My time at Dartmouth has been defined by the continual pull to keep moving and going forward. To constantly be working towards some sort of improvement and recognizing that things change. We change with them, with all the growth opportunities, rising to the challenge. Dartmouth has taught me that life is not linear. It doubles back, fast forwards, sticks in some places and gets caught in the occasional loop. It informs itself and moves along … rarely in a straight line. Our experiences and relationships come back again and again, ever shaping us. I don’t want to stop learning and stop attending strange lectures and listening to experts in hyper-focused fields. I want to keep pursing the details, keep editing and rereading and finding the meaning I ascribe to the world.

I’ve worked as a writer and editor for The Dartmouth, an editorial intern at a publishing company and a reporter for Bloomberg News. And I can say with the utmost certainty that I am very self-conscious about my writing. The news stuff is one thing, but once I bring my personality and lack of expertise into the mix, I feel again like the waitlist kid. Behind that lies the fear that someone is going to read this and realize I wasn’t meant to be here. But, the thing is, I do. I’ve poured my love into The Dartmouth and all of my other activities because that is where I found a place where I could make an impact. And I truly feel like I did.

As a waitlist kid, four years out, I keep searching for universal truths, for activities to prove I have a purpose. But there’s nothing wrong with that, and if anything, I think it’s made Dartmouth all the more valuable to me.

Alexa Green ’19 is a former news managing editor of The Dartmouth.