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The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Reflection: What’s in a Woccom?

One writer reflects on the value of her daily walks around Occom Pond.

leilabrady_occom.jpeg

Like many college students, I find comfort in routine — Monday laundry, coffee in between classes and my daily woccom, a walk around Occom Pond. Despite the ever-changing landscape of freshman year, I most enjoy the activities that I know will be the same week-to-week. The Saturday of Green Key, however, my routine was suddenly altered when I tripped over a tree root at the Gamma Delta Chi D.J. set. The next morning, I couldn’t walk and had to make a trip to the emergency room with a sprained ankle. As I fiddled with my hospital wristband, awaiting my X-ray results, I wasn’t concerned with how the injury would affect my treks to classes. I was wondering if I would miss my daily woccom. 

When I tell people I go on a woccom every single day, I am often met with some variation of the same bewildered response: “Seriously?” Or, worse: “I’ve never even been on a woccom.” In the second case, I never know how to reply. I shrug, and like the author of a self-help book, I offer, “Try it.” 

Recently, I have been thinking about why I woccom. There is the simple answer, which is that I have been doing so with the same friend every day since winter term. We’re both busy, and it’s my chance to see her while getting some exercise. But I still cannot shake the feeling that there is a more mystic quality to the woccom. A walk around Occom Pond is not inherently ritualistic, yet it has become so ingrained into Dartmouth’s culture that it has received its own nickname: “woccom” — a term of endearment, with a firm place in the campus vernacular, like a “sunrike” or a “flitz.”

I can’t remember when I completed my first woccom, or when my friend and I decided to make it our primary way of spending time together. Despite the number of woccoms we do, my friend and I joke that we have no idea what we even talk about, as if our conversations occupy a sacred space restricted to the winding road around Occom Pond. 

Yet, some moments manage to stand out. Once, we planned every chapter of an entire book. Another time, we predicted that, in 10 years, one of us will probably show up at the other’s front door, where we’ll sob about the state of our careers, sit for hours and drink wine. On one occasion, we found ourselves at the end and hesitated: “Want to do another loop?” It was one of the first warm days of spring. I had an essay due in the morning, but how could I say no? Some people say that academics should come first, but those people have clearly never been on a woccom.

During one particularly special woccom on a brisk day in early March, we approached the pond from Webster Ave., passing a yellow house perched on top of a hill. I told my friend that I wrote my college essay about doing the morning announcements at my high school and always including a joke at the end. She nodded. “In first grade, I did the weather on the announcements,” she said. “I wanted it to be the best in the class. I stuttered saying the word ‘sunny,’ and was so distraught that I sobbed all day uncontrollably and my parents had to come early to pick me up.”

I looked at her and laughed. “We were so different,” I said, “I literally used to write fanfiction about real people in my grade.” She shrugged and mentioned offhandedly that she’d also written fanfiction — creating copies of Daily Prophet newspapers from Harry Potter to save up for Harry Potter World. Since my friend and I met at Dartmouth, we don’t usually discuss our time before college. During our walks around the pond, we talk about the things we don’t normally get to mention.

I also think woccoms are deeper than a collection of individual conversations — their value also lies in the pauses. You start to notice things you might not otherwise, like the gentle rustle of leaves in the fall or the people around the pond with fishing rods. You perceive the tiny brown frogs hopping in the road and wave at old Hanover couples walking their dogs. You watch the other people on their woccoms, and groan as you trudge up the hill next to the Dartmouth Outing Club house. The pinkish cast of the sunset on the water, the houses, the seclusion — Occom Pond is one of the few places on campus where you are forced to just be. With all of the talk about living in the moment, there is something to be said about finding a place to meditate and reflect — a place that can be as substantive as you want it to be. Somewhere that forces you to rack your brain for conversation topics. I find that woccoms evoke a similar feeling to driving on the open road — the comfort of moving, of not being face-to face. 

This term has been one of near-constant whiplash — snow, pollen, Green Key and now finals. As I clean out my dorm room, I cannot help but feel that my freshman year has slipped away from me. Each new term, I have to once again find my bearings and adjust to new classes, faces and schedules. It can be hard to not get caught up, constantly living in anticipation for my next sketch comedy show or the upcoming big weekend. Next year, my best friends won’t be just a carpeted hallway away. We’re all going to take different off terms. There’s the new, looming presence of fall rush. There will be less continuity, with each term promising to be drastically different from the last. Which, I think, is why I woccom: the familiar space of that one-mile loop, to talk about anything and everything, allows me to make sense of it all.

So, I encourage you: Go on a woccom. Who knows — maybe I’ll see you there.