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Saturday, Dec 3, 2022

The Middlebury Romantic

My first love was my home. Mine is the block with the broken sidewalk tiles and the dogs that always bark at inconvenient times and the houses that have seen a century more of the world than I ever could or would. Now, though, I know in my heart — and most definitely in my parents’ bank account — I’ve opened my mind to a new home. And since home and love are synonymous in my head, it seems I’ve also opened my heart to a new love.

But Middlebury wasn’t always a love of mine. There were certain undesirable attributes that Middlebury left off its online dating profile: the emotional unavailability that took the shape of cold spells, the lack of hygiene that was that curious stain on the Battell wall, and the gaslighting which made me question whether it was possible to miss home as much as I did, or if I was simply crazy. By the end of first semester, soon after our relationship had just begun, I was ready to break up. Middlebury was determined to win me over, though, and by our 75th date (J-Term), I began to see Midd in the romantic way I see it now. 

As it commonly happens when people fall in love, some of the aspects that drove me crazy about Midd became some of my favorites. Since love is the closest thing we have to magic, Battell had a certain magic to it: the late-night conversations in common rooms, the constant bustle of energy wafting through open doors, and even the bathroom rendezvous were endearing. I didn’t know that living with so many people in a tight space or sharing embarrassing moments with someone who hears you talk in your sleep Every. Single. Night. could be so full. These moments can only be described as the type of joy where you feel like your face could break from smiling so hard, of moments where you’re staining your friend’s shirt with tears or singing happy birthday to another and of brief romances with flames old and new.

Middlebury was resourceful, though, and like in the movies when a person uses their musical talent or cooking skills to woo a suitor, it played to its innate strength: the students and professors. In balancing moments of fun and study, Davis and elevated surfaces, everyone maintains a passionate, open-minded and driven spark to them. They all exude an encouraging, graceful attitude towards the success of their peers. The best example was my freshman year in Chemistry 103. I had been so used to my high school peers asking what scores I had gotten on exams; whether these conversations were competitive boasts or unintentional probes, I was surprised to learn that my Middlebury classmates seemed to be more interested in supporting their friends through the class rather than competing against them. We had study sessions, answered one another’s questions, and kept our grades to ourselves — and every class I’ve taken here since has followed this “collaboration over contest” principle. 

After a brief long-distance relationship, Middlebury and I knew we were bound to get back together for The Great Return in the fall, which attracts nothing short of magic itself. Like any good suitor, Midd always welcomes us with a flower bouquet: the rolling green hills speckled with crimson blooms that constitute our beloved Knoll.

And what is romance without a sunset? Middlebury’s are sherbet-colored, and you can spend your time on long walks (or rounds of frisbee) on the Beach or share a private moment alone in the woods on the Trail Around Middlebury. Opportunity lies in those 15-person classes about topics you REALLY care about, the ones you research for (gasp) FUN, and in the clamor to ask your professor that question burning a hole in your notebook you’ve held onto for ages. Bonding with the people you love can be found tucked into the jeans you wear dancing at PALANA or Brooker, on hikes near and far, trips into the freezing Gorge (you think I’m being dramatic, try swimming there sometime), and in the seemingly mundane ventures to the bagel deli or the supermarket or the Best Coffee Shop In the Entire World, Dunkin’ Donuts.

Where does this love, this magic, manifest itself? Sometimes you’ll find the magic on the bottom floor of BiHall in the armchairs by the big picture windows where all you can see is sky and cows. Sometimes it’s in the class you never thought you’d take (but you really need an art credit and a theater class), where you slow dance with a broom. Too specific? I’ll try again. Maybe it’s in the challenge to take a class in a subject you thought you weren’t designed for, but you learned something that you’ll never forget and you’re glad you took it in the end. Maybe it’s in the date you went on at the bench overlooking the fields, or in the a cappella group you joined on a whim, in a packed WOMP, or perhaps just in the content quiet that Middlebury usually embodies, except for those nights that the artistic, athletic, academic energy has seeped under your door frame, making it impossible to sleep at night.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of challenging moments at Middlebury. I’ve lost friends, pulled all-nighters to study for exams, gotten less-than-perfect grades, missed home, had breakups, and felt imposter syndrome more often than I’d like to admit. These frustrating moments, though, helped me grow as a student, a friend and a daughter because I began to see Middlebury, and life, more realistically. Though magical, this campus still has flaws, my days still have ups and downs and, despite and because of these imperfections, I felt more appreciative  for the “ups” than ever; my love transitioned from superficial to real. 

Though one might not  necessarily call this a “romance piece,” I would politely disagree. This love affair with a place that has shown me more joy, more confusion, more curiosity and more challenges than I have ever experienced in any other home, is not really a love affair, after all. Unlike love affairs, Middlebury is a place that lasts, that really has meaning to me, I’m sure to you — and to any of you who are new, to you, too, even if you don’t feel it yet. Middlebury might be one of the Greats, the Great Loves one has in their life. The Great Loves don’t fade, even with time’s gentle touch.

Yours truly,
The Middlebury Romantic

The Middlebury Romantic is a way to open conversation around romance and love in the Middlebury community, in whatever form it might take. People have preconceived notions of what romance is truly like at Midd, like the prevalence of hookup culture or the marriage expectation, yet these notions still leave room for missed connections, confusion and, in extreme cases, heartbreak. Stay tuned for articles on when people say, “I love you,” online dating at a small school, horoscope compatibility (Co-Star put this in my “dos” for the day, I don’t make the rules), dating archetypes, Atwater romance and romantic comedy parallels to college life. Consider the gates around all things romantic opened, and should you have suggestions or need anonymous advice, please contact the writer of this article (no expert, simply a hopeless romantic) directly.