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The Dartmouth
May 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Reflection: Breaking the Routine

Emily Wadlow ’26 reflects on breaking her daily routine after spontaneously venturing into Hanover with a friend from home.

Courtesy of Tom Remp

I chose to attend Dartmouth because I wanted a break from city living. I craved the calming quiet of a small town, where I could slow down and appreciate the little things, like a new poster from the local store or a meditative walk around the quaint neighborhoods. But, I’ve come to discover that Dartmouth is not built for slow living.

Wake up at 9:30, go to class, get lunch with friends, then work in the library for as long as possible. Exercise, dinner, bed, repeat. Such goes my daily routine with a healthy dose of academics, socializing and activities — although I could always do with a little less school. I find myself sitting in the same chair in the Sherman Arts Library, eating the same sausage, egg and cheese sandwich from Collis and rewatching the same shows in my free time. Recently it’s been “Gilmore Girls” 

I like my daily schedule, but it lacks spontaneity, and more specifically exploration. With four years at Dartmouth, I want to make the most of life in Hanover, yet, two and a half terms in, I still haven’t been to Left Bank Books or Scoops. What happened to my goal of discovering new places? It’s a small town; this should be doable, but for some reason, I have created an imaginary fence between myself at Dartmouth and the town of Hanover

So, when my friend from home, Lindsay, stepped off the Dartmouth Coach last Friday afternoon and asked me what we were going to do, I had no idea what to tell her.

With barely enough dining dollars to cover myself, Collis for lunch was out of the question – our first stop undoubtedly had to be Foco. As a freshman stuck on the Ivy Unlimited Plan, this is where I eat a majority of my meals anyway . So Lindsay was going to get the authentic first-year student experience, dining and all. We might groan and gripe about the Foco food, but according to Lindsay, it was better than every other college dining hall she had visited. 

Several warm Foco cookies later, we joined some of my friends to read, journal and bask in the afternoon warmth on the Green. After two hours, the next obvious step was to leave — before a rogue spikeball nailed one of us in the head — and head into town to peruse the various shops.

First things first, Lindsay wanted to visit the Dartmouth Co-op to add another college sweatshirt to her ever-expanding collection. And then, on our way over, for the first time ever, I went into Left Bank Books. Writing this now, I can’t believe it took a visit from my friend from Virginia to get me to walk five minutes across campus and into the used bookstore that so many of my peers and professors have praised. Upon finding a complete set of Baedekers, which were unfortunately out of my budget, I decided that the secondhand bookstore was underappreciated.

One t-shirt later (I promised Lindsay one of my own Dartmouth sweatshirts instead), we continued down Main Street until the allure of a shiny new ring, courtesy of The Ring Man of Hanover, prompted us to stop yet again. I’d had my eye on this one ring since the fall, but it was never in my size when I passed by — perhaps that was because I had only approached the pop-up shop two or three times all year. While Lindsay was busy picking out a present for her friend, I scanned the size seven boxes until I found it: the spoon and fork ring that has been in the back of my mind since Orientation Week.

The afternoon continued with a trip to the poster store, quick peeks into the cute, but unfortunately expensive, boutiques and two maple creemees from Scoops. Loaded down by bags from our unplanned splurge and ice cream cones in hand, we trekked back to campus and over to Occum for Lindsay’s first Woccum. The trees were still bare, but the sunset’s golden light filtered through the branches and onto the pavement. The water sparkled as we meandered our way around the pond. I hate to admit it, but I haven’t been on a Woccum since Fall Term. It was always “too far away” for me, despite the central location of my Mid Fay dorm. Amidst readings, midterms and discussion posts, indulging in a peaceful walk often seems out of the question — but sometimes I wonder if I’ve tricked myself into thinking I have too little time, or if that was ever really the case.

Not every second of my day is filled with academics or extracurriculars, although I may have made it sound that way. I do have free time — albeit not a lot, but enough to unwind. I just prefer to spend my downtime attempting to postpone imminent burnout by scrolling on social media apps or sleeping. With so much on my plate, I can’t expect myself to use my limited free time in a productive way. Although exploring new stores and going on walks would be more enriching options, I like turning my brain off while watching cheap reality TV shows in bed.

The night drew to a close as we collapsed in our beds, legs tired after dancing to student bands and stomachs full of Foco Late Night mozzarella sticks. Our only stop on the next day’s itinerary would be the library. After all, my essay wouldn’t write itself.

So while it was refreshing to close my textbooks and spend some time outside, I remembered why I rarely find the time or energy to wander on my own. I’m stuck inside the rigorous and competitive Dartmouth bubble where the work hard, play hard mentality reigns supreme  — and it’s hard to pop that metaphorical bubble. The worst part is that I’m starting to grow content with this monotonous, yet stressful lifestyle because it’s considered the norm.

Yet that doesn’t mean I don’t break my routine when possible, whether it’s to try the boba shop or watch a movie at the Nugget. But still, I realize that putting pressure on myself to explore Hanover won’t fulfill me. If hunkering down in my dorm for a long afternoon nap will make me happy, I will gladly indulge.