To sit on a bench in the sunshine
Eight weeks ago, I set foot on campus for the first time as a Dartmouth student. Trips, O-Week, and course selection dominated my days until the first week of classes, at which point my time was split between homework, jobs, and sleep, meals with friends acting as a winning motivator to work efficiently—like dessert after a salad. As good as the work here can be, it's really important to go beyond the prescribed routine. Still, in the schoolwide scurry for productivity, again and again I've fallen prey to the phenomenon of box-checking.
The nearness of my putting a box in front of a basic human need in order to make it a part of my schedule was a much-needed wake up call. My planner serves as a metaphor for the "college mindset" I'd entered: Make your work into a list, get it done, go to sleep. Any additional play which snuck into my schedule (which includes reading all Food Network news updates and watching episodes of The Office) were things I shouldn't encourage by writing down.
I'm not sure who this was intended to fool. By mid-week 6, increasingly daunted by the fascinating amount of work which crowds my planner's pages, it feels even more important to make sure a planner is not a complete representation of daily life.
As I write this, I'm sitting on one of the coveted benches on the Green. (On nice days, benches are like Hanover walk lights—you don't take them for granted). It's a glorious October afternoon, and the burnished copper leaves which I've felt guilty for ignoring are spread out in full view. Bicyclists, runners, bright-eyed dogs, and students have crossed the Green since I first sat down—longer ago than originally intended, because I got lost looking at the magnificent tree beside me. The sunlight is warm and mellow, the air incredibly nearer sixty than forty, and the sky the perfect blue I imagined when applying to Dartmouth.
If this bench hadn't been open, or I hadn't taken the time to sit and think and imagine, I might have missed the beauty of today. I can't help but wonder how many days I haven't fully appreciated here.
Dartmouth is an incredible place. As with any college, it requires work but only as much as you are able to give it. The feeling of "not being enough" can in some ways be attributed to the students—when we feel as though we aren't working hard enough, the endeavors of our peers spur competitiveness rather than support, leading to a self-sustaining cycle which has the potential to end in completely avoidable burnout.
A cute, yellow cloaked, highly photogenic ladybug just landed on my keyboard. However, my attempt to take its picture left me with an empty frame and the feeling that the little visitor was something that couldn't be captured on screen, just as the importance of mental and physical well-being cannot be captured by a single checkmark.
If you take anything away from this post, it's the hope that the next time you see an open bench, you'll take the time to rest, to look around, to remind yourself of why you're here and what you hope to accomplish.
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