Challenging and Changing
It's 10:53 and I'm writing this from a bench outside of my best friend's dorm room. I have a sweater on because it's cold, the type of cold that reminds you that fall is just around the corner. There's not much going on in town right now, and other than the occasional car, the silence is broken by the soft hum of insects. I look up and it seems like the sky is illuminated by every star in existence. It's summer's end eve and there's no place I'd rather be.
I have spent 602 of the last 724 days of my life on campus at Dartmouth and to say I love this place would be an understatement. I love the drive across the bridge, up the hill, into campus; the way the sunsets over Memorial Field; and the sound of Baker's bells every hour, on the hour. I love jumping into the river, the far docks, when no one is around but me and my best friends; the many walks to the new Dominos, because we don't want to wait for delivery; and that I'm safe enough to sit alone in the dead of night and write this.
As I prepare for my first real "leave" term since freshman summer, I've not only been reminded that I made the right college decision, I've become acutely aware of one fact:
I love who I am at this place.
For so many years of my life, I felt like it was impossible to be more than one thing. At school, I was known as the athlete. At practice, I was known as the student. I didn't feel confident talking about faith with my friends or teammates and I felt like my friendships were constrained to those who understood, and respected, my life as a high-level athlete. Coming to Dartmouth, all of those preconceptions I had about myself were changed. I have been tested athletically and academically by people who are smarter and stronger than me. I've been pushed to reflect on what I believe. I have developed relationships with people who not only understand the life of a student-athlete, but at the same time, are so different from myself.
And it's not to say that my journey at Dartmouth as been easy. My life couldn't be more different than it was when I first showed up on campus. From my sport, to my major, to my health and my friendships, I am constantly being molded into the person I am supposed to be. However, the anticipation of this upcoming term has made it clear that I'm scared to leave. While these past two years have been the most challenging, impactful and at times, uncertain, of my life, they, in a sense, have been the safest. Dartmouth has not only forced my growth, it has fostered it; not only challenged my character, but changed it.
When I step back and think about my junior fall term in the grand scheme of life, I realize that Dartmouth has been what it has for me, for so many generations before and it will continue to be for many generations to come. I know that when I return to campus in January of 2019, I may have changed, but Dartmouth won't. I'll be able to sing the alma mater as confidently as ever; not singing as an athlete, or a student, a believer or a friend, but as Julianna.