The View from Halfway Done: One Junior’s Take on the Passing of Time
Reflections on getting older while you feel like you’re just getting started.
I am halfway through my time at Dartmouth and halfway through 21F, and the glass is looking half full. I wake up to an open window in my off-campus home and a view of green leaves, I make coffee and eggs and finish up the odd reading for one of my government classes, and I get to feel the brisk October air on my face as I laugh with my friend on our way to computer science every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Something about the campus clockwork makes me feel like a real person, unlike when I would move about 10 feet from my bed to my desk and log into Zoom, silently laughing at my professors’ jokes while remaining muted.
I’m no stranger to the mercurial Northeast weather, having lived in New Jersey my whole life, but this fall I’ve been feeling the cold more. I’ve also been staring at the trees a little longer, people-watching on the Green a little more unabashedly and feeling the Sunday blues just a little bit harder. I can’t believe I was ever in a hurry to grow up — turning 20 this past April, I was ready to abscond to Neverland and live among the Lost Boys, or let some really dark things happen to the portrait I’ve got in my attic.
I’m always inclined to make a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to the passing of time and how it’s affecting me. After clinging to the “sophomore” title for all of sophomore summer, I am officially an upperclassman. This is my junior fall, and that feels weird. It’s like I tried to skip a rock on the water and it hovered in mid-air half a second too long before continuing on its trajectory; it’s like I have the years lined up on a shelf, like the spines of novels, and there’s an empty space gathering dust where one should be.
There are so many people here all of a sudden, such long lines and so many faces I don’t recognize. And now, most of them are younger than me! My friends and I are updating our resumes, paying our electric bill and lamenting when we forget to take out our recycling. Who signed off on this? What happened to living in the Choates freshman year, when my Bissell compatriots and I would huddle on the common room floor for weekly check-ins with our UGA, so he could make sure we were all taking care of ourselves?
This past weekend with Homecoming was especially weird, which I keep failing to articulate when people ask me how my weekend was. “That was just us,” I want to say. “Yesterday, that was us walking around the fire.” Are 20-year-olds allowed to have a mid-life crisis? Does this even qualify, or do I just need to get some sleep?
I do feel different than I did as a freshman though, and better. Better even than the halcyon, pre-COVID terms of 19F and 20W, because I feel more secure in this home-away-from-home. I no longer worry that “Oh my God, every single person I talk to thinks I’m the most annoying person in the world.” I no longer feel like I have to prove myself every second of every day; after a long day, I get to walk down West Wheelock in the dark, flop down on the couch to some “Gilmore Girls” and ask one of my housemates to put the kettle on.
This term has thrown me for a loop, and not only because I’m learning how to code them in Python. It’s weird being here, it’s weird that it’s been fall term for five weeks already, it’s weird that Dartmouth and I have gotten acquainted and re-acquainted about a dozen times in as many months. It’s weird that next year I’ll start using the words “last,” and “final” and “senior.”
But the weirdness is so worthwhile. One off-handed Foco exchange with a stranger turns into a series of smiles in Baker-Berry; one study session with a classmate turns into a housemate you can lovingly bicker with about whether or not the $80 Darth Vader cutout in the record store on Main Street is a solid investment for your shared kitchen (I think I’m wearing her down).
My classmates are starting to talk about graduate school, job applications and ‘What do we want? And how do we propose to get it?’ I consider myself so unbelievably lucky to be surrounded by people who are always coming up with new answers to those questions, and who are learning to move through the world like people with something to say for themselves. I can’t promise to stop trying to slow down my time here — peak foliage would never pass us by if I had anything to say about it — but it’s really fun to be at Dartmouth when you feel like you know Dartmouth well. May the next two years bring many more Stacks study sessions, Collis smoothies and frantic dashes to GreenPrint in the 20 minutes before an essay is due — God only knows how I’ll react to becoming a senior.