Sunday, February 20, 2011


I'm sure, loyal readers, that in your insatiable quest for knowledge about Dartmouth, you've stumbled upon the tried-and-true tradition of the Big Weekend. One for every term, they stand as both a beacon of pride and celebration and a hazy abyss of incomplete assignments and partially-recalled memories. Whether out of respect for tradition or pure rationalism, classes are cancelled on the Friday of each of these weekends, and the campus is left with nothing other than a vague schedule and its own debaucherous devices. For fall there is Homecoming; for spring, Green Key; for winter: Carnival. And this Winter Carnival, I vowed, would be The Best Carnival Ever.

I've worked hard this term, readers, taking three major classes and trying my hardest to figure out what on earth I should be involved in on campus. I watched my friends sink happily back into the overstuffed armchair of Greek life, while I chose to remain (mostly) unaffiliated. I saw upperclassmen I admire pursue research, find internships, and plan for life post-graduation (in what I presume to be The Real World Out There). And I, chugging happily along, decided that what I needed, more than anything, was one glorious, exhausting, unparalleled Big Weekend. What I got was a concussion.

At around midnight on Friday night -- just as my Carnival festivities were getting underway -- I fell face first into, what else but, the floor, from about two feet up. I didn't realize anything was wrong until the next morning when, in a valiant attempt to get breakfast at the Hop, I couldn't seem to keep the ground from moving beneath my feet. Each time someone engaged me in conversation, I found myself at not a loss for words, but a loss for any thoughts at all. When I tried to read, my dull headache flared and my vision blurred. My head felt, for lack of any other fitting metaphor, like it was filled with Brillo pads -- and what else could I expect, given that this would now be not my first, but my fourth concussion? And so, I spent the rest of my Carnival weekend in bed, dividing my time between staring at the ceiling, sleeping, and eating Frosted Flakes.

Over the past week, I've slowly improved, but there have been moments where I've felt nothing short of terrible. Not because of the headaches or the wooziness, but because of the overwhelming frustration at my inability to read a book, to navigate Collis, to go to class, to stay awake for more than a few hours at a time. This post has taken me ages to write because where there used to be a seamless interchange between my ideas and the sentences on the page, there's now a screen, a filter that keeps me from expressing myself as quickly and as fluidly as I'm normally able to.

If you'll forgive the quality of this post for a final paragraph, I'll tell you what I've learned: it takes a lot to be at Dartmouth. By this I don't mean: it takes hard work to be academically successful at Dartmouth; it takes brilliant interpersonal skills to be socially successful at Dartmouth; or, it takes drive and commitment to be extracurricularly successful at Dartmouth. I mean, simply, that being, existing day-to-day, in such a busy, complex, fast-paced, ever-changing place like Dartmouth, takes a lot of energy -- energy which, post-concussion, I don't seem to have. Over the past week I've come to appreciate so much the high level of mental functioning Dartmouth requires of me every day, regardless of the context. If I ever come to doubt the rigor or intensity of my experience here, I hope I can look back on this hazy, headachey time and be thankful for all that Dartmouth has asked of me, and all I've been able to give.

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