Many students come to college ready to reinvent themselves. Whether it’s new interests, new style or a completely new personality, it’s easy to see this chapter of our lives as a chance for a complete rebrand.
But it’s a bit difficult to reinvent yourself if you don’t have a strong sense of who you are. In my short time at Dartmouth, I’ve met so many unique people who have talents and interests that I truly admire. And even though I can identify these qualities in others, I can’t help but draw a blank when I think about myself. It’s odd to think about which parts of myself are apparent to others right away, versus other aspects of my personality that might only surface after months or even years of getting to know me.
I should clarify: When I say I don’t know who I am, what I really mean is I don’t know who I appear to be. Before coming to college, I had lived and gone to school in the same two towns in Connecticut for all of my life. I was comfortable; I had a general idea of what I liked, what my role was in my community and how others saw me.. I liked to read, paint, get food with friends and listen to the same twenty songs for months at a time. Those things haven’t really changed, and I’ve never really had to think about my traits or how they contributed to identity, because these aspects of my personality — at least the essential ones — had been part of me for years.
It’s also difficult to gauge whether or not I’ve rebranded in college because I’m not completely sure what my ‘brand’ is. A large part of what defines me — my interests, my hobbies, my mannerisms — came from the people I spent the most time with. But now that I’ve transitioned to a new space with completely different people, do those traits still define me? I’m sure that these past six weeks have changed me, but I don’t think I’ve had enough experiences to call it a rebrand just yet.
That being said, I’ve already enjoyed experiences that I probably never would’ve been able to have elsewhere. Despite growing up in New England, I’d never camped or done anything particularly outdoorsy until my First-Year Trip. Even though it was jarring to go from never having camped to not showering for four days, it helped me to realize how much I love observing and interacting with nature (and how much I love showers). But if I decided to become a frequent hiker because of my Trips experience, would that be a rebrand? Am I suddenly crunchy?
Even if I had wanted to, I’m not sure if I would have had time to reinvent myself amid adjusting to one of the most drastic changes I’ve ever experienced. In a whirlwind of adapting to a new learning environment and trying to take advantage of all of the fun activities on campus, I’m not sure I could simultaneously maintain new interests, a style transformation or some other metamorphosis into a new and improved me.
But the logistics of a rebrand aren’t really the main thing that interests me. As I thought about the small ways in which I’ve changed since starting my freshman year, I asked myself: Why would I even want to rebrand?
I could become an organized and Pinterest-worthy studier who uses Notion and gets eight hours of sleep every night. I could develop the skill of an expert mountaineer who goes on unbelievably scenic hikes twice a week. These are things that could drastically change my experience at Dartmouth for the better, and they probably wouldn’t occur without me pushing myself to do them in the first place. Even if it’s just to emulate some version of myself that currently isn’t, but could be.
But even in these scenarios, the act of rebranding carries some negative connotation in my mind. It seems to involve a deliberate alteration of the self, a transformation so drastic that it could take away from parts of myself that I like.
What if, in all my exploration of nature and investment in my hiking journey, I never paint again? I’m hesitant to call all the changes I’ve already undergone a rebrand, because it almost seems like rebranding is somehow disingenuous or inauthentic compared to a more organic change in identity. Really, I think the concern is that I’m changing at all, whether it be on my own account or due to outside circumstances.
Despite my anxieties, I believe that intentional and unintentional changes allow us to grow and learn new things about ourselves. I can be a mountaineering, reading, Notion-using painter, and that can be my brand. To me, rebranding is really just introducing a new element into your existing passions, and learning and improving because of it. If your first rebranding doesn’t work out, just rebrand again!
At any rate, change is bound to happen to all of us as we attach ourselves to various parts of the Dartmouth community. Instead of concentrating on the image that I want others to see and shaping myself to that ideal, I hope to capture memories of myself throughout the different phases of my life. One day, I may look back on them and be glad that I rebranded.