Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
April 18, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Reflection: The Grass is Always Greener

One writer reflects on the difficulty of embracing the present moment on her off term.

Untitled_Artwork 21.png

There’s something so comforting about being back on campus. It’s the very definition of a winter wonderland, the glittering snow a stark contrast to the green leaves of this past summer. But it is also a striking reminder of how long it has been since I’ve last been on campus. After volunteering on Vox Croo during First-Year Trips this summer, I hopped on a plane to London to begin my 40 day backpacking trip around Europe. I spent the remainder of my time back home in Florida, taking it slow and being with my family and friends. 

My time in Europe was lovely, fun, chaotic, stressful and all of the rest of the things that one would use to describe living out of a comically large backpack for over a month. What I hadn’t expected, however, was the deep longing to be back at Dartmouth. By the time I left campus at the end of the summer, I had been taking classes for four terms straight. Needless to say, I was feeling academically burnt-out and overwhelmed. After trying to navigate all of the changes between a full year of Dartmouth quarters, from the shifting seasons to the ever-differing D-plans of dear friends, I was ready for a bit more stability. It makes perfect sense that I immediately left to go backpacking then, right? 

All jokes aside, I was struck by how much FOMO I experienced while away. I wonder if it was also a bit of homesickness. I felt a strong sense of missing home, a pang at missing out on classic fall term staples such as the changing of the leaves, Greek rush or the Harvard-Dartmouth football game. I missed my friends, I missed Collis breakfast and I missed writing for The Dartmouth. I missed the hallmarks that make up my life on campus. But every time I would talk to someone who was at Dartmouth during the fall on campus, they would insist that I was doing something noteworthy and that life on campus is just how it has always been. 

So I was stuck in this strange place between being incredibly grateful for the opportunity to take time off and travel but feeling unable to appreciate the experience in all of its glory. Instead, it often left me feeling sad and rather lonely. It frustrated me endlessly that I couldn’t disconnect myself from what was happening on campus to enjoy my time away — after all, I knew I would be back again in the winter. I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side.

I often wonder why we must wait until we lose something to understand its value in our lives. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but what if the heart was able to grow fonder in the moment? How great would it be if we could all take a second to notice when we are enjoying something, whether it be a cone of ice cream or the blissful sunshine or the company and warm laughter of friends and family? It would save humanity from a lot of wistfulness in the future. I’ve now learned that it’s also just as important to take the time to reflect on moments that are less than ideal — the ones marred by stress, tears and frustration — not just the happy ones. They too are an indication that you care, that your heart has been affected by something you hold dear. And just like everything else in our lives, these moments too are temporary. Is it masochistic to advise that you savor even the bad moments, if only for the sake of knowing that you did so when they’re gone?

And so my parting words are a bit of advice that I hope to be implementing myself this term. I’ve found that I am a bit of a hypocrite in regards to my own reflections. I write extensively about enjoying the moment, and not taking for granted all the little (and big) moments and people that define my life, yet I often find that I am unable to detach myself from the stress and anxiety that come with trying to hold it all so close to my heart. 

Trying to appreciate the moment has left me more upset, hurt, and tired than anything else in the past few months of my life. Just like a baby discovers that it is impossible to hold a fistful of sand for very long before the individual grains start to slip away, I too have found that trying to save these moments one by one is impossible. 

Perhaps it is best to take it one moment at a time, to dote, treasure and love that moment for what it is before letting it go for the next one. My goal for this term is to focus on letting go in order to better appreciate what I have around me. To feel the sharp nip of the cold wind on my face and take a second to make my peace with it, for it will soon be replaced in a few months with the sun. This isn’t easy, and I’m not perfect. 

But, I hope that this approach will be more sustainable and less consuming than what I’ve tried to do before. I hope that I can look back with a newfound peace to say that everything was how it was and will be what it will be.