Reflection: Embracing Change, Foreseen and Unforeseen
Addison Verot '25 explores personal growth and conceptions of self at Dartmouth.
As I reflect on the term, and trace my recent year of change to its origins, I realize I may not have had as much authority over my metamorphosis as I once believed.
College. Before I understood the implications of that two-syllable word, I knew it meant growing up. To grow up meant to change — and as someone whose sanity relies on preparation, how was I going to prepare for changes I knew nothing about?
My concern for my preparation was met with canned advice like “the only thing you can control is yourself.” I began to realize that the change in scenery — and ultimately, lifestyle — I was about to experience was out of my control, and that I was the only controllable.
Still, as the summer after my senior year of high school came to a close and September approached, I was met with an unsettling awareness that I was about to have an amount of autonomy I had never had before. My meals, my classes, my friends, clubs, curfew, dorm decor, shower gel, frat shoes and study spots would all become a reflection of who I am — who I chose to be. Knowing this, the question arose: Who did I want to be?
I wanted to be an ambitious Ivy League student and a determined Division I athlete. I wanted to live out my athletic retirement as a sports broadcaster and journalist. A postgraduate move to New York sounded tempting, and a relocation to Western Canada later on in life was definite. I wanted to be a girlfriend, a best friend and an example. An example of balance, hard work and genuinity. I wanted to be — in fact, I was sure I would be — the happiest version of myself. I had all the control, after all.
As I was packing to leave, the repetition of closing zippers and “only take what you need,” or “only take what you want the most,” haunted my final days at home. While my Doc Martens and light-washed Levi’s went in my suitcase, my Adidas Allstars and flannel button-ups stayed in my closet. With every shirt I folded there was a choice: take or leave? As I evaluated the necessity of my cottons and cashmeres, my suitcase began to fill with only the nicest of my things. In a way, I started to pick and choose the parts of myself I wanted to bring to Hanover — and the parts that could stay on the dark shelves of Regina, Saskatchewan. With distance, perhaps I could permanently part ways with parts of my wardrobe — and the parts of myself — that I did not care to keep.
Considering I would have all this newfound autonomy, I figured the rest of my college experience could be organized much like my closet and suitcases. The change we all hear about before arriving at college would be in my control — and this was going to be the place I got to create myself. Yet, when I look at just some of the ways in which I’ve changed since my arrival to New Hampshire, I cannot recall actively making the choice to change. It just happened.
My athletic retirement came early, and screenplays, prose and novels replaced my desire for writing locker room reports. It may take me a little longer to get to New York, since I may be pushing my graduation date back by a couple of years. While the Canadian coast still calls to me, the longer I’m in America, the quieter it shouts. I am an ex-girlfriend, a best friend and have realized I’ll never be as genuine as I’d like to be, as you can never be enough. While I was once running from it, I am beginning to take comfort in the gloom that follows me from place to place. It convinces me I am still myself, despite all my physical and aspirational vagaries.
I now like apple cider and drink it on a regular basis. I had never tasted a two-egg hue, but now I do every Tuesday. I had never had a stranger sleep next to me, or shared my toilet with seventeen other girls. I had never had to find my wet underwear thrown on the floor of the laundry room. I had never walked in on a friend, nor ran to someone’s room crying. I had never laid in a hallway at 2 a.m., surrounded by bowls of goldfish, popcorn or peanut butter pretzel bites. I had never understood the (well-deserved) hype around foliage, the appeal of the hills or the frequency of rain. Now I do. How can I say I haven’t changed? How can any of us?
I have adopted a plethora of new characteristics and experiences in the past year, and each is specific to my experience here at Dartmouth. Who would I be if I was able to avoid the dreaded seasonal depression, went to surf instead of hike, had never taken Introductory Latin my freshman fall, never met Professor Jetter or my best friend Sara? Would I be recognizable? Would any of us?
Recognizable, maybe, but not all the same. I would not be the girl you met eating a two-egg hue outside of Collis next Tuesday, or the one taking her Literary History final the week after that.
I realize now that as I adopted the autonomy college promises, I was giving up control despite the feeling I was being granted more.
Perhaps in some final attempt to extend agency over my own change, I chose Dartmouth because when I looked at it, I thought that if I wanted to become anything, it was a product of this place. Perhaps we all did.