Rush Reflections and the ‘Sophomore Slump’

by Caris White | 2/10/21 2:20am

rush-piece-design
by Mia Nelson / The Dartmouth

Every year, hundreds of Dartmouth students rush Greek houses. A lot of us end up affiliated, and many of us do not. The process is hectic, inconsistent, fun and frequently disappointing. Even in normal times, it adds a complicated, sometimes contentious, layer to the social networks that we occupy. This year, that extra layer has felt especially weird. 

I will add a disclaimer to the beginning of this article: I ended the rush process affiliated, and I’m glad I did. I know that Greek life has a lot of problems — I’ve written about them before and will continue to do so. However, in all of its downsides, upsides and inconsistencies, the Greek system is here, and if Dartmouth’s history is any indication, it’s here to stay. 

By the time I sat down to write this article, I was hoping I would have a set of clear and coherent thoughts to share with the world. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Rush this year was a strange combination of centralizing and decentered — it simultaneously felt like a widely shared experience and more lonesome and isolating than ever in its digital format. I had some truly enjoyable, lighthearted and honest conversations. I also constantly felt like my social battery was on low power mode, and all of the familiar faces on my computer screen made the promise of real shared space feel that much further away.

Going in, I thought that I was too self-aware to really care about rush. I had read all of the articles and all of the critiques and prided myself on entering rush armed with the knowledge of its systemic flaws and an open mind nonetheless. But rush started, and I found that I cared a whole lot. I cared about what people thought about me, I cared about what my friends thought about the rush process and I cared about what I thought too. 

I was not too chill or too woke to care. I wanted to be chosen, and I wanted it so badly it surprised me.

It was the part after the choosing that I didn’t quite see coming. The most intense silence I’ve felt in a long time was right after bid night. I logged off the Zoom meeting, and for just a moment, I sat there in silence at my desk in McLaughlin. Dressed from head to toe in flair, with my name written in highlighter across my forehead and a phone full of new contacts, I was completely and totally alone.

After a few seconds, I got up, changed into real clothes and went outside to meet up with a friend. In the end I had a lovely night, but I still remember the feeling of dead silence.

It’s a feeling I’ve spent more time getting acquainted with this winter, and not just in relation to the ups and downs of the rush process. I’ve spent the majority of this term in grind mode, and a glance around at my friends tells me they’ve been doing the same. There’s something about sophomore winter — the newness of college has worn off, social circles are shifting, school is hard and it’s just really, really cold. I’m struggling in one of my classes, I’m worried about some of my friendships and I’m also meeting new people daily and feeling incredibly grateful to be back on campus after a year away. 

There’s a Monet print taped to the wall above the desk where I’m writing right now and where I sat in that bid night silence a week ago. It’s his painting of “The Gare Saint-Lazare,” and through the clouds of smoke that fill the train station, you can just make out the shape of a train and the cityscape behind it. It’s impossible to tell whether the train is arriving or departing, and no matter how long I stare at this print, I can’t overcome the frustrating opacity that seems to fill both my wall art and my life at present. 

Duck syndrome is real, and this term I’ve been spending a lot of time underwater. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to write this article — as someone who normally writes to find clarity, I wanted to put words to my mixed feelings as well, because I don’t think I’m alone in having them. Writing this feels a bit like coming up for air.

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