Homecoming in Another Sense

When we write, it is best to write what we know. And not what we think we know, or what we would like to know. What I know is that I just moved into a new dorm, from Dana to Worth. I moved because I was seeking the holy grail of college rooms: the single. But what I find is that the tiered rows of Dana — each floor its own cloistered community — stand in stark contrast to the fluid columns of the towers of Worth. There are many differences and a few similarities.


One difference is my morning sally to class. Flows of bipedal traffic to Wharton and Dana move like a highway along the sidewalk. On occasion, a person breaks off, demurely slips into the Crum, and the traffic continues. The traffic in people’s minds ferries them from place to place. I am from the Pacific Northwest, which may as well be the ferry capital of the U.S. So I know a thing or two about ferries. And I too find myself bodiless, suspended in animated trains of thought while walking to and from Dana. Time is, as they say, only an illusion, and that rather all of time is happening, now. The Dana walk is a river of thought. It could be intellectualism that, spurning textbooks and JSTOR, wafts like e-cig smoke or zings by like electric skateboards.

 

Dana residents are hard to generalize, like the Swarthmore student body. The upper levels, dotted by RAs and a few recalcitrant upperclassmen who spurn the truth that Dana is not the best dorm on campus, are full of first years. The lower level is different. Personal preference, or perhaps some quirk of the housing lottery, seems to have put only upper class and transfer students in the halls of lower-level Dana. Some of the strongest characters on this campus reside there, including a man who has met Obama, one of the top Smash Bros players in the country, and a woman who, last summer, bucked her East Coast roots to become a full-time organic farmer. The students are eclectic, and let’s keep it at that.


Worth, what should I say about wooly, wily Worth? A week of Worth is all I have to work with, but I won’t let that inhibit me, dear reader. The window panes are thin, old glass, and I overlook the road — it keeps me awake at night. Lots of cigarette butts lie like electrocuted moths on the stone slabs of the courtyard. Often, but not always, the courtyard is deserted. Short stone walls act as hedges, as though we are somewhere in the north of England. People call out to me on my way home from class. It’s dark, I don’t know who they are. The amber glow of a cigarette spasmodically illuminates the face of my block mate and her friend. It’s a pleasure coming home to someone; many people don’t have that. I’m grateful.

 

Down the walkway, the windows of Willets are bright with lifestyle choices. Oh, Willets, you are the wading pool for the child in each of us. As a friend once suggested, F. Scott Fitzgerald would say “our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” How tremendously that line translates from eastern seaboard city to dorm at Swarthmore College.

 

The warmth of Worth is like no other dorm on campus. While it is known as a party dorm reserved for athletes, I’ve found that stereotype to be descriptively insufficient. Meeting people living in Worth exposes you to a greater social fabric I didn’t think existed at Swat. I feel as though I walked into the wardrobe in Narnia — gnome houses, and beliefs about how the world works turned inside out.

 

As a new semester begins, perhaps the last for seniors, we’d do best to remember that this is indeed a college; that no matter our affiliations, our dispositions or our loyalties, we are in partnership with one another. I’ve found that intellectualism, competition, and individualism tend to neglect community. Indeed, that they breed loneliness. Henceforth, say hello, be kind, and take a walk towards Dana or visit a friend in Worth. We are all here because we know something worthwhile Share it.

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