TTLG: Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
In her final article, former Mirror editor Meghan Powers ’23 reflects on the passage of time.
This article is featured in the 2023 Commencement & Reunions special issue.
Anyone who knows me can probably tell you how much I love getting the last word. Among the more charming manifestations of this personality trait, I’ll always be the last person to tap out of an activity — there is no game of Monopoly too long or boring for me. Both at home and at school, I turn off all the lights every night, because I’m always the last person to go to bed. If it’s an on-night, I’ll probably ask if you’re sure you don’t want to do an Occom loop before we call it a night. And if you think you might ever win a staring contest against me, you’re sorely mistaken. I’ll always be the last person to blink.
I’ve learned to rely on other people to tell me when enough is enough. When I was younger, my mom had to wait until I was sleeping over at a friend’s house to switch my childhood duvet cover from its tattered purple daisies, because she knew I wouldn’t have approved if I’d been around to veto the change. I was mad, but she was right — moms often are. I love the last word, but I don’t like change, and I don’t like endings.
Writing this TTLG, my official last word on my Dartmouth experience, it has occurred to me that I am once again facing an ending that I didn’t choose. I’ve achieved most of the things I expected out of college: I’ve finished my major and my minor, and my tenure as an editor of Mirror at The Dartmouth. I’ve written a thesis, studied abroad and learned French in Paris, read a few hefty novels and met people I’ll chase across the globe if it means I’ll get to call them my friends a few decades from now. All of that has amounted to no insignificant chunk of time. And yet I find myself unprepared. If I could quantify that feeling, I’d be able to figure out how much emotional catch-up I need to achieve in the next two weeks so I’ll be ready to say goodbye. I can’t, though, so I just have to watch the days pass.
I’ve never been ready for anything to end, so this is just a high-magnitude iteration of the crisis I have every time the sun goes down. I recently found a diary entry I wrote a couple of years ago, when I’d accidentally adopted a nocturnal lifestyle. Over and over again, I stayed up until sunrise and felt awful the next day. I wrote that I wished that I could do an experiment where I could stop the sun from coming up and see how long I could go just being awake at night, unburdened by the sun or my schedule. How many movies would I watch? How many books would I read before I decided I was ready to go to sleep?
I can’t even let one day end. How can I pack up my room and leave Dartmouth when there’s so much left to do? I’ve been a student for so long, almost 19 years, but I still need more time to wake up earlier and go for longer walks, or get six different degrees in different majors, spend more time with my friends and skim fewer readings. Time is such a luxury, and time at Dartmouth even more so. There is nothing more decadent than getting to choose how to spend it.
These past four years, I’ve cemented myself as the Goldilocks of the space-time continuum by savoring the moments where I know I’m neither too close to the beginning nor the end of something — somewhere in the middle is just right. I love the middle section of a novel, the second chorus in my favorite song — “Linger” by the Cranberries — and weeks four and five of the term. Sometimes I stop counting after that.
I want to feel time stretching out like a big, lazy cat. I even love the ridiculously long wait for the walk signal at the four-way crosswalk between the Green and Hanover Main Street. I love being forced to stop and feel the seconds move past me in real time, unlike watching a lecture at two-times speed or trying to turn a 13-minute walk to class into a 10-minute one. Have you ever taken the time at the crosswalk to look around at all the people at all four corners, waiting to cross the street? This is such a small campus, but there are always people I don’t recognize.
My dad has taken to telling my siblings and I that we are “time billionaires,” which is a term some vaguely influential man in finance coined to describe people likely to live another 31 years — AKA, one billion seconds. I think about the seconds slipping away like grains of sand and I remember when someone told me in elementary school told me that every grain of salt you eat takes one second off of your life. I didn’t even really comprehend death and didn’t know anyone who had died, but I knew enough to understand that time was precious and that everyone wanted more of it.
I know what it feels like to have too much sugar or too much to drink, but I’ve never had too much time doing something I love. I’m a time glutton, enriched by every second I spend smelling the wet grass in the rain while dashing between Sanborn and West Wheelock and every person I smile at on my way to somewhere else. I take refuge in the fact that life is long. People like to say “life is short” as an encouragement for risk-taking, but your net worth in seconds — need I remind you — might be north of two billion.
So as my last word to end all the words I’ve written and rewritten throughout my time at The D, that is what I have to say: Life is long. The same girl whose favorite holiday was Thanksgiving — because she got to keep her lamp on as late as she wanted — is now dragging her heels at the thought that graduation is rapidly approaching. But I’m not dreading the end, only wishing I could slow down a little. I know what a privilege it is to like where you are and what you’re doing, and I’m too afraid of overstaying my welcome to try to pretend that I’ll be 22 forever. Life is long. One day I’ll be 75 and I’ll get to remember what 22 felt like. I might even still be a time billionaire, depending on where technology gets us by then. Life is long and I’ll miss Dartmouth, but there’s so much left to do.
Meghan Powers is a former Mirror editor of The Dartmouth and a member of the Class of 2023.