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The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

TTLG: More Happy Than Not

I am ready to leave this school, but not without looking back at the memories I’ve made — both good and bad.

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This article is featured in the 2024 Commencement & Reunions special issue.

Well, here I am. Writing a TTLG, just as previous editors have done before me. These reflections were always my favorite to read at the end of previous spring terms. Not only did they make me appreciate the outgoing editors, but they often brought tears to my eyes. Now, it is my time to write one — you know, because I’m graduating.

The fact that my time at Dartmouth is over baffles me. Recently, I’ve been thinking in metaphors as a way to make sense of my time here. The end of senior spring is akin to sitting in the nosebleeds at a baseball game. I’m at the very top, looking down at the rest of the ballpark — my memories. I don’t recall this campus being so small. My memories always made it look bigger.

But if I’m being honest, I am ready to leave this place.

Behind this statement is an honest reflection of my time at Dartmouth. When I first arrived on campus in the fall of 2020, I was eager to leave New York City, where I was raised, and distance myself from the curated, closeted version of myself that I presented to my deeply religious, Catholic family. I was giddy at the thought of painting my nails green and growing my hair out. But arriving on campus in the middle of a pandemic was not an easy transition to college. On top of the strict COVID-19 safety guidelines, I felt deeply homesick. How ironic, that the place I first saw as an escape from my strict upbringing became the reason I missed my family and our one-bedroom apartment.

I’ll never forget the last day of my freshman fall. Only two hours before I boarded the Dartmouth Coach back to New York, I found out through my friend that Beau DuBray ’24, a fellow Native American at Dartmouth, had died. At the time, I didn’t let myself process my emotions. Instead, I focused on finals and checked in with my friends, who were grieving immensely. The amount of death that first year, along with my unaddressed pain, made it hard to enjoy Dartmouth for a while. 

As my Dartmouth journey continued into sophomore year, I grew frustrated with how things were going in my life — simply put, I wasn’t enjoying this school. My friend group at the time broke down during the fall of 2021 and finally ended the following winter. At the same time, I was falling for someone who didn’t reciprocate, which left me emotionally confused. I juggled finding new friends during sophomore spring while rushing The Tabard coed fraternity. Sophomore summer came and went, only for me to realize that my time at Dartmouth was already halfway over.

For a long time, that was all I could remember from my first two years on campus. There are so many memories associated with trauma that I can’t recall them all. To put it bluntly, I forgot to remember my time at Dartmouth. Why would I, back then? 

During my sophomore winter, I read “More Happy than Not,” a gay coming-of-age book by Adam Silvera. Around that time, I had finished working on The Dartmouth’s Winter Carnival special issue. It was the first time I truly felt emotionally and mentally burnt out. I left The Dartmouth’s offices in Robinson Hall incredibly numb, tired of being here. I cried on the way home, and then laid on my bed feeling like shit. A few days later, I picked up the book and, upon reaching the end, cried even more.

“More Happy Than Not” shook me to the core. I won’t spoil it here, but the story is quite tragic. After the protagonist attempts to erase his memories, he learns that he will soon be unable to create any more, but that he will still retain his old ones. Due to his condition, the protagonist looks back at his past and promises to find happiness within his memories.

As I reminisce, I find that there are good memories from my freshman year that I can now better recall — meeting my best friends Jacob and Kayn, playing hacky sack in front of the Hopkins Center for the Arts and grabbing breakfast at Novack Cafe. Sophomore year yielded its share of bad memories, but in the midst of an awful year, I was planting the seeds for my future. After all, I became a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow during my sophomore spring, a program that supports students from underrepresented minorities to pursue research in the humanities. Because of Mellon Mays, I conducted research that led me to writing a senior thesis and gaining acceptance into an American studies Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota. 

At some point during my junior year, something shifted in my Dartmouth experience. I realized that even if I didn’t like Dartmouth, I still deserved to enjoy my time here. At times, I felt isolated at this school as a queer, Indigenous, first-generation student. But despite my unease and a jarring freshman year, I still made good memories, and I still had time to make new ones.

My Dartmouth experience owes a lot to this newspaper. When I started writing for the news section during my freshman fall, I did so out of curiosity. I never expected to hold editing positions, much less direct our coverage. My year-long stint as an executive editor led me to work with wonderful people, while also exposing me to a more social atmosphere. Although the role was hard, unpaid and stressful, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

I also realized I needed to address my trauma and mental health. I started therapy last term, and even though I only attended two sessions, I was able to talk about the anxiety stemming from my imposter syndrome at this school. This spring, I fulfilled my physical education requirement through a wellness course called “Thriving @ Dartmouth,” a seven-week experience that, among many positive outcomes, led me to be more present. For so long, I didn’t want to be present to avoid facing the terrible reality of my first two years at Dartmouth. Now, I fully appreciate the good and bad, and I discovered mindfulness practices that keep me grounded (yay!). And ultimately, over this past Green Key, I had the chance to grieve over Beau with friends. Slowly, I’ve moved on from the ghosts of freshman and sophomore year.

Safe to say, I grew a lot these last four years. I may only return to Dartmouth once more — as a crusty alumnus during Green Key — but there is a lot I will miss: my friends, the amazing professors I’ve worked with and the memories that have made me who I am. 

I leave this school with a sense of peace. After all, these four years truly transformed me for the better. I choose to leave, not angry or sad, but rather more happy than not.


Daniel Modesto

Daniel Modesto ’24 is the News executive editor. He is from Brooklyn, New York, and is a Native American and Indigenous Studies major modified with Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies.