“Library patrons, the Orozco Mural Room closes in 15 minutes.”
The clock strikes midnight, but I refuse to let go of the day. Taylor Swift’s “Midnights” provides the background to my thoughts, but I will not leave a glass slipper behind — only a scribble on a piece of paper of this morning’s predictions for what today might have been. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll get that fantasy back. For now, I will walk home through the sterile white lighting of FFB and say goodnight to the lampposts on my route.
Although our midnights may not feature such high-stakes reflections on our arch-nemeses, fatal flaws, the love of our life and expensive wine, I find Swift’s new album fascinating and almost relatable in how it reflects themes of growth.
My sleepless nights are not unique to Dartmouth, but Hanover nights have been painting my midnights with different shades of insomnia. Dartmouth — and settling in here — is a challenge. Ten-week terms combined with a relentlessly demanding understanding of socializing bring a lot to get adjusted to, like the strange combination of newness and familiarity of my life at Dartmouth. New friends send me tumbling back into high school dynamics, new failures bring up familiar fears and new feelings lead to the old habit of all-nighters.
It’s easy, in a new environment, to define our lives by the absences — lunch dates we miss, friendships we grow out of, readings we don’t do, time we don’t have. There is never enough time, never enough sleep. At the dawn of the new day, we mourn uncrossed to-do lists. We change the date on the paper to not waste another page.
After “Folklore” and “Evermore,” the sound of “Midnights” caught me off-guard. But in the context of Swift’s career, there is nothing surprising about the album. With simpler production, honest songwriting, and — finally — permission for the 32-year-old singer to curse, “Midnights” felt like a demonstration of the reflection and introspection I’ve been avoiding.
I stay awake thinking about problems that have existed, that will exist, that are not real — problems that I created, solved and ignored. I stay awake with devastating nostalgia. I stay awake, in love again. Sometimes, my new feelings use the same chord progressions from a younger, stranger time. That is okay. I stay awake — I find other people who are willing to stay and wait with me. We wait silently to hear our roots growing. The star-studded night illuminates as we study, party, complain, share and fill in the blanks left over from buried absences. We get bold enough to tear down the calendar page, and call it yesterday.
The satisfaction of resisting sleep and the sense of community at Dartmouth overlap in strange ways. I stay up with thoughts, with homework, with friends in an attempt to claim my time back after a long day. Some midnights, I end up revisiting the past. I find unread pages in my journal. They make me smile.
Other midnights are marked by new experiences: Seeing a pair of tired eyes in the 24/7 study spaces glistening with a sense of mischief, just before your friend does something incredibly weird and distracting; the unusual quiet of Novack when a friend working behind the counter makes you a drink before closing time; the cold air on your face walking to your best friend’s dorm for a warm cup of tea to end the night.
Taylor Swift’s new album provides a new companion for late-night contemplation and midnight revelry. Although I hate working hard and partying harder, there is no denying it’s that culture that creates the midnights we’ll remember for years to come. Spending sleepless nights in Hanover is a special experience. There is so much to do in a tiny bubble and nothing at all beyond that. Eventually, the night yields to another day and with it, another chance. But each night after dark, we grow up together. There is nowhere else to go.
“Library patrons, the Orozco Mural Room is now closed. Please exit, and get some sleep. We’ll meet at midnight. Until then, You’re On Your Own Kid.”