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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Reflection: 24What Happened to Discipline?

One writer reflects on the seemingly insignificant moments from winter term.

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English and creative writing professor Alexander Chee once told me that a successful story “insists that the insignificant is significant.” 

Attempt #1 at success: I’m midway through my 30-minute commute to a Japanese stationery store in the East Village and miserably cold. I forgot my umbrella at my sister’s apartment and have reached a too-far-gone degree of indecency — sopping wet hair, jeans soaked to the hip and a see-through white Bonne Maman t-shirt. Damp and miserable, I do what any 20-something film minor would and reframe my thoughtlessness as a romantic indifference to the weather. Throughout the weekend I spent in Manhattan, the pressure to characterize myself as different intensified — I logged 10,000 steps in a torrential downpour, ordered Moroccan coffee at a table for one and wrote shit prose about the “cruelty of rain” and the “callousness of brownstones.” The pursuit of quirkiness left me pathetic, predictable and sopping wet.

As I coped with the discomfort of wet denim by funneling it into my manic pixie dream girl complex, a stranger approached me from behind and quietly extended his umbrella over my drenched head of hair. At first, I thought we were going to awkwardly share the umbrella in silence. But then he said “here,” and it was clear he wanted me to take it. I said “no,” to which he replied, “please, take it.” We suffered through a few rounds of this until I finally agreed to take his umbrella and he walked away. This ended up being the most significant moment of my spring break. 

Winter term was neither the best of times nor the worst of times; rather, it was a series of insignificant in betweens I retrospectively deem significant — that one giant puddle in front of Collis after a night of rain, a B+ median and dejected girl talk over a basket of blistered shishito peppers. At Dartmouth, there are times when you reap and times when you sow. Every exciting term comes at the cost of an academic grind term or a mental health term; every Green Key is preceded by an anticlimactic Winter Carnival. I left my study abroad ready to continue reaping, only to return to a campus adorned with barren pines and half-frozen brooks. Forget “discipline” — my attempted “word of 2024” — Dartmouth had something else in store for me. A catfish cavity on my back molar and a fleeting moment of ego death in Sanborn Library. 

Amid my 10 weeks of sowing, Hanover’s situationship with global warming allowed me to reap a handful of cheap thrills to offset the omnipresent threat of seasonal depression. Like that Wednesday afternoon I wore a summer skirt on the Green and pretended it was spring, clutching a watered-down Collis smoothie while basking in the solace of the winter sun. But I did more than twiddle my thumbs in anticipation of April. This winter, I: reached 500+ connections on LinkedIn, rolled a Bones Gate fraternity concert sober, decayed in the gym sauna for five minutes too long, went maple tapping, gaslit a Safety and Security officer, drank mushroom root beer (didn’t like it), mispronounced phallus during a presentation on the male gaze, redownloaded Hinge, plowed through two jars of peanut butter and a cardboard crate of medjool dates, co-authored a Fizz post that got taken down for “violating community guidelines,” convinced my dad I was interning for Big Tobacco, double faulted at a semi-public pong game, ate three Boloco burritos in the course of one week, paired 10-12-30 punishment workouts with an “On the Road” audiobook, spent eight dollars on a handkerchief, got confused for the student body president by the Middle Eastern Studies Department — which asked me to present my thoughts on the Israel-Palestine conflict to my favorite professor and Dylan Griffith '25 — flirted with diabetic ketoacidosis, cut my fingernails with a pair of baby scissors and drank cow’s milk for first time in very long time (liked it), among a series of other things I’m worried will jeopardize my digital footprint.

Oh, I also procrastinated the job search by consuming an obscene amount of movies, some better than others — “Poor Things” restored my faith in Hollywood, while “Neighbors” promptly toppled it — listened to the same series of songs on repeat until my listening device died and cried to MGMT’s latest album. During the snowball fight, my friends and I blasted MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” and pretended we were the main characters of Dartmouth. I could make the argument that we are, but that would be self-involved, and when have I ever been one to indulge in self-obsessed Mirror articles?

In light of my whole “discipline” schtick being thrown out the window, I wasn’t able to publish this article last term. But, while I have the podium, I’ll take the opportunity to cheaply circle back to my opening anecdote and manifest a sexy spring term. May spring bring new favorite songs, spontaneous afternoon dips, recoverable sunburns, that one wood-fired pizza food truck, random acts of kindness and seemingly small moments of joy and gratitude that we will cherish for years to come.