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Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

Makes Ya Feel: The sopho-more the merrier

Gallery hoppers, Spotify stalkers, bookworms, Letterboxd users and anyone who enjoys art, this is the place for you. Makes Ya Feel highlights art across all of its mediums, small- and large-scale, that (you guessed it) makes ya feel! Check back often for recommendations, reviews and discussions.

Sophomore year of college is when everything starts to come together. By this point, you know the best study spots, the worst party locations and the coolest places to get off campus for the day. You finally feel settled in, yet there is still so much to discover. My sophomore year started out with a lot of bad news in my personal life, and I was afraid that would set the precedent for the entire year. Strangely, the quite opposite happened. 

Throughout the year, I strengthened friendships I already had and began new ones, joined many exciting organizations, pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and learned some things about myself. As I prepare to go abroad in the fall, I’m feeling particularly sentimental about this year. I’ve found that art, across all its mediums, really makes me feel, so I thought I’d compile a list of some of the most impactful art I interacted with this year at Middlebury.

Painting: “Hope II” by Gustav Klimt

I went home to New York City for spring break in March and decided to embark on one of my favorite activities: going to art museums alone. I put on a good playlist and took two trains to the Museum of Modern Art.

I stumbled across “Hope II” by Gustav Klimt and was awestruck. The painting depicts a pregnant woman, the threat of death and the collective support of three other women at her feet. I couldn’t stop looking at it, standing there for several minutes before I was able to continue on with the rest of the exhibit. 

This painting feels particularly relevant to my year because it depicts many emotions at once, all working alongside each other. As I navigated this year, it was often difficult to put my finger on what exactly I was feeling because everything started to blend together. When I saw this painting, I knew it was going to stick with me forever.

Book: “Either/Or” by Elif Batuman

Confession: I initially bought this book solely for its name because it shares a title with both a Kierkegaard book (pretentious, I know) and one of my favorite Elliott Smith albums , so I figured it had to be good. To my surprise, there was also a prequel titled “The Idiot,” so I begrudgingly purchased it and momentarily set “Either/Or” aside. 

“The Idiot” follows Selin as she navigates her first year at Harvard University. Selin grapples with academic rigor, romance, friendships and broader struggles with her identity. I consumed the novel quickly, savoring the tiny bit of freshman year I had left before beginning a new one. I brought “Either/Or” to school with me this year, hoping that if it sat on my bookshelf for long enough, I would eventually be motivated enough to read it.

The fateful day came during J-Term. I had resolved to read for pleasure, and after inspecting my bookshelf, I rediscovered my copy and immediately started reading it. Much like Madeleine said in her review, this book feels deeper and far more significant compared to “The Idiot.”

“Either/Or” defined my year because it nails the experience of being a sophomore at a small liberal arts college. This year was one of gratitude; I have become so appreciative of the intimate community of which I get to be a part.

Like Selin at Harvard, watching the transition of the seasons for the second time seemed to mark my settling into Middlebury. Like Selin, I discovered new things about myself through all the new organizations and activities I got involved in. Like Selin, there were times when everything felt impossible, but I figured out how to navigate my emotions. Like Selin, I turned to music to cope with what was going on in my personal life. And like Selin, I discovered what it means to take up space and learned how much to take up.

“I was going to remember, or discover, where everything came from. I was going to do the subtle, monstrous thing where you figured out what you were doing, and why,” writes Batuman. This quote perfectly encapsulates both “Either/Or” and my sophomore year. Everything slowly starts to come together.

Album: “Moveys” by Slow Pulp

“Moveys,” in all its indie-twang glory, is everything you could ask for in an album: a variety of emotions presented in a raw, relatable and deeply compelling way. Many songs — four in particular — on this album were a prominent part of my sophomore year and helped me to move past the difficult, appreciate the good and embrace the unknown.

“If I could treat myself better / I know I'm still getting better / I might come back / I'll hope for that,” the lead singer confesses on track one, “New Horse.” I frequently listened to this song in the fall when I was focusing on being there for myself — something I had not previously prioritized — and it helped me feel hopeful. 

Track two, “Trade It,” is similarly about learning and growing, which I did a lot of throughout my sophomore year. Specifically, I learned how to enjoy spending time alone, which feels especially prominent in the line “I’m all I have.” This song is about moving forward and using all the bad things as motivation to keep going so the good things can come. 

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The fifth track, “At It Again,” shines in its upbeat and somewhat angry confession of repeating old habits. Sophomore year still has a lot of trial and error; you’re still learning about where you are and who you are in this new context, and sometimes that causes you to fall back into old habits. This song agonizes over this, but it also feels strangely hopeful, showing how repeating mistakes is inevitable but not something to dread. 

Finally, track nine, “Montana,” is self-doubt, brightness and the ache for change all wrapped up into a perfect three minutes and 20 seconds. “I’m a contest,” one lyric proclaims. “Hold my hand,” declares another. The song expresses many raw and challenging  emotions. And to me, that is exactly what the sophomore experience is like: hectic, joyous and everything in between.