The Evolution of Midd Kids

By Guest Contributor

As I made my way down Route 7 last week, I couldn’t help letting my eyes wander occasionally. At first, the seemingly endless fields of corn caught my attention. However, my gaze quickly advanced towards the thin line separating the crest of the Green Mountains from the sky. On my way to campus, each Middlebury landmark instantly called to mind a vivid memory. The bright red Hannaford sign put me right back in the supermarket’s meat section, as my housemates and I purchased pounds upon pounds of beef to grill on the ADP porch during the spring of my junior year. As I continued past the Dollar Store, I was again wandering the aisles in an attempt to find the cheapest way to dress up as my favorite superhero during my sophomore year. With a slight grin on my face, I eventually made my way past Jackson’s on the River and remembered taking a girl on a date for the first time in the fall of my freshman year, at what was then Tully and Marie’s. When I reached Battell (my time-honored freshman dorm), I saw FYCs and parents collectively assisting the freshmen in unloading way more stuff than could ever possibly be needed at college.

Then it hit me, how unbelievably different these current perceptions were, compared to the first ones I had moving in to Midd, only three Vermont autumns ago. Apart from the expected excitement, occasional ambivalence and perpetual anticipation I felt as a freshman, above all else, I was eager. Eager to start classes. Eager to meet the baseball team. Eager to find a cute girl. Eager to meet my roommate. Eager to discover the campus. Eager to acclimate to life as a “Middlebury College student”. While this eagerness certainly drove me to try a wide variety of new things and meet an even wider array of people, in hindsight, it may have been (subconsciously) overwhelming.

Armed with what was then a far cry from a well-established sense of identity, I immediately set out to do exactly what I felt a “cool” Midd kid would do. It was essentially like letting a different, idealistic persona guide my behavior.

Many months after I’d settled on a group of friends (who I now consider to be among my favorite people to spend time with), quit the baseball team and decided to prioritize my own interests, I became aware of something new. I realized that in an attempt to prove to Middlebury that I was a “cool” Midd kid, I had inadvertently created a person with whom I didn’t actually agree. I didn’t enjoy trying to find a party every night – I was free to socialize at the expense of being bedridden for the next 11 hours. I didn’t enjoy donning Vineyard Vines belts and Croakies to look like the older guys on campus. Above all else, I didn’t enjoy doing things in order to form a new identity.

It wasn’t as if I woke up one morning and suddenly realized that I no longer agreed with the person I was trying to be. Rather, the transformation happened slowly, over three years.

As I’ve progressed through the previous three years at Midd (and abroad in Spain), I gradually decreased choosing what I felt I should be doing over what I actually wanted to do. I found myself doing fewer things that felt forced and unnatural and more of what I truly enjoyed.

One could argue that the difference between my first perception of move-in day compared to the one I had two weeks ago represents a sort of evolution. Throughout my three years at Middlebury, my sense of identity changed from being largely influenced by the perception other people had of me, to learning and enjoying what I really wanted to do. Just as the struggle for existence is a prerequisite in Darwin’s theory of evolution, so too did my struggle to figure out who I really wanted to be shape and modify my behavior over time at Midd. I believe that discovering who you are and what you really like to do are among the most important aspects of a Middlebury education. It is one of the many learning experiences that take place outside the classroom. It was a long, hard and occasionally bumpy journey, but I enjoyed it immensely as it was well worth the wait. (That’s what she said #winkyface.)

Written by GRANT NISHIOKA ’13 from Wayland, Massachusetts