What do we do now?
Street Roberts ’24 reflects on living for highlights — and everything in between.
So, Green Key just happened.
It was the culmination of the spring term, the highlight of all highlights, the thing you’ll talk about when friends from back home ask you what makes Dartmouth fun. It was the reason we waited through the cold dead of winter, through the somehow still frigid beginning of spring. We yearned for the chance to forget about school, to celebrate our hard work as a community. And we got it.
But now it’s over. The only remaining evidence is the dead grass on Gold Coast Lawn, the odd Keystone can here and there and the ridiculously large water cooler in front of Robinson Hall. Even my Green Key wristband lies pitifully on my desk, snipped in half, never to be used again.
I have to admit, when I pulled out my scissors on Sunday morning to remove the blue ribbon from my wrist, the finality of the moment jarred me. The weekend was amazing, yes. Saint Motel was rocking. The NOTD concert on Saturday felt like I had been transported to a music festival somewhere far, far away. And, only God knows how, the ruptured ligament in my shoulder remained intact despite all of the dancing and jostling from random people. But the weekend was still over.
Yet somehow, I felt a strange sense of regret on Sunday. As I heard friends recount their own versions of Green Key, I wished I had been there to witness the moments they raved and chuckled about. There is so much to do during Green Key that even if you try to do everything, you’re going to miss out on a few things. It’s the nature of a weekend like that. I know I had a fun weekend. It was amazing, even if it wasn’t exactly what I expected at every moment. But still, as someone who struggles with FOMO, it hurt knowing I had missed out on things I know I would’ve enjoyed.
But perhaps it wasn’t so much that sense of FOMO — that regret for things I didn’t do — and in reality, it was more a sense of “What the hell am I supposed to do now?”
It feels weird to pick up a book again, to open my laptop again after denying its existence for a few short days. It’s like I need a few more days to recover from the break we just had. But there are papers to write and exams to be taken and applications to be submitted for internships that loom so large in our future. So do we just resume college life as normal? Push through the last few weeks and try to make the most out of the end of the first somewhat normal spring term in almost three years?
As a sophomore, these last few weeks feel inherently a little different. The fact that our summer break spans two short weeks is a little weird. But I have to admit that returning to school has never excited me more. The prospect of a lightened work load, spending hours lounging on the Ledyard docks, doing weird and spontaneous things with my class genuinely fills me with a warm fuzzy feeling. But sophomore summer is still a month away? The supposed ‘greatest term of Dartmouth’? What am I supposed to do between now and then?
I’ve heard the word ‘liminality’ thrown around a lot in the past few years — probably because it aptly describes the weirdness of being in between two phases of life. It is precisely what I am feeling right now, a certain ambiguity and disorientation as I try to get my life back together after this weekend while simultaneously preparing for the coming months.
I’ve talked to too many people about how to make the most out of sophomore summer. I’m not typically the most organized person. I don’t plan stuff weeks in advance. My outfit for the day entirely depends on what clean clothes remain in my drawers. Most of my dinner plans are formed 15 minutes before they happen. But something about the summer — this golden opportunity for a low-stress, high-fun term — spurred me to attempt to structure that fun.
I bought a ticket to a concert — The Backseat Lovers — almost two months in advance. I took great care in aligning my class schedule with recommendations from people about the best way to make the most of the summer. “Go down to Ledyard every day — at least go for a swim.” “Only take two classes.” “Take the ‘10A, 2A’ schedule, it gives you a four day weekend.” But I suppose if I’ve learned anything from Green Key, it’s that you can’t totally plan out “having fun.”
There’s no recipe, no exact combination of certain people and activities that will guarantee having fun. You might always have a blast rollerblading until one crash down a steep hill leaves you struggling to put on your shirt for weeks. Or you might always have a great night out with your best friend until the night you find out their mom has cancer, so you sit with them while their life falls apart.
As much fun as having fun can be — and don’t we all wish every moment of our lives was fun? — the moments in between the highlights can be some of the most important moments of your lives. Without those moments of sadness, of despair, of regret, the fun moments aren’t as fun. If life is one big party, at a certain point it gets boring. You lose purpose.
That’s what I was really feeling on Sunday morning — a lost sense of purpose. I had been waiting on Green Key for so long, that when it was over, it felt weird. It’s almost as if all of the expectation I had placed on it, subconsciously or not, had made the aftermath that much worse. But as I think towards the summer and these last few weeks, I think about the people on this campus — the ’22s who will be graduating soon and tossed into the real world, the people I am so grateful to call my friends, the professors and DDS workers who make every day on this campus better. And when I think about them, my “purpose” (if that doesn’t sound too cliche and self-centered) becomes somewhat clearer — not perfectly transparent, but perhaps a little less muddled than it was on Sunday.
There’s no real way to define how ‘fun’ or ‘great’ something is. On paper, Green Key would win out every time, but when I think back to other moments in the term — going on short hikes around Hanover, staying up late on random nights with some of my best friends, even something as simple as a meal at Foco — those moments don’t pale in comparison to Green Key. They are equally as important to my life. So if I live for Green Key, if I live for sophomore summer, if I live for those supposed “highlights,” what else would I miss out on?