Senior Retrospective: Matthew Ortile

As I write this, I’m waiting for a call about an apartment. I’m wondering when I’ll hear back; the co-op board never said when they’d make their decision and the move-in date is in four days. Three months of gathering information, two on-site visits, one interview, and lots of paperwork and hope in an attempt to find a place to call home. It’s been awful. I just need something—an e-mail, a call, a text, anything—that says, “You’re in!” At least Vassar did just that.

I applied Early Decision (Round I!) after learning about Vassar through—not a campus visit or a brochure—but The Devil Wears Prada. A character in the book was an editor who had gone to Vassar. Then the movie version of Prada came out starring Meryl and Annie.

I wouldn’t say Prada was the sole reason I took the leap of faith that did, but I felt some strange cosmic connection to the school, one I’ve had ever since I read the word in what is now my tattered paperback Horcrux.

I never wondered if it would be the right fit or not. For whatever reason, Vassar offered me an unbearable rightness of being.

So I attacked my Vassar application with four years of gathering information, no visits, no interview, but lots of paperwork and hope in an attempt to find a place to call home.

And I got it. We all did. We were in.

Vassar presented the enchanting unknown, full of new opportunities. Some of us piled our plate with them: joining two dance companies, doing student theatre, writing for the newspaper, doing two internships in Manhattan while still going to school, and eventually writing two senior theses.

But it was through these insane endeavors I found a family that screamed with glee if you spun on your toes just so or made various body parts vibrate while inverted against a wall.

I found a family that would slide across the library lobby in just socks, bring wine to the 24-Hour Room, wake each other up once dawn broke after spending a night face-first in Foucault. I found a family that would sprawl out on Ballantine in a self-induced champagne coma and sit in trees to wait for those first summer storms.

Or maybe you joined acapella, sports teams, orgs you never knew existed or created yourself. But you definitely pretended to be studying when really you were on Netflix/Hulu/the Class of 2014 Facebook group. You had dinners in rehearsal gear, went out for Krafted and first dates, devoured Kismat and gossiped too loudly in the Retreat.

You kissed, you hugged, you loved people and things you never thought you would. You lost, you learned, you grew. And that didn’t stop when you were away from Vassar.

While interning and studying abroad, you took the fabled Real World for a test drive, leasing it for just a little while, along with the jobs and homes and lovers that could be.

Then you felt the clock begin to tick, flattening that wondrous sense of adventure. It didn’t disappear; you folded it into a tiny square to keep in your back pocket for later. You told yourself the time would come again to unfold that wonder, to let it run amok in a borrowed playground, all the while knowing you had a place to which you could return,  home.

Vassar never let you wander too far away. It was always a sure bet, that unbearable rightness of being there. But now comes a summer that’s not just another summer, and it’ll never just be another summer.

After a fourth and final year (nine months, maybe less), all you’ll have is a new piece of paper, this time parchment written in a dead language.

You’ll try and origami the parchment into something that’ll get you that job or home or lover you once borrowed with that old wonder as collateral. Because that little square you folded up all those years has been stained indigo in your jeans and its creases have become permanent and you wonder if that wonder will be enough.

And the truth is, we’re never sure of anything. We’re always wondering.

Yes, you’re happy you became a Psych major, but you wonder what if you’d declared Art History instead? Stayed instead of going abroad? Kissed her instead of him? But there’s a comfort to the indeterminable.

Keats called it ‘negative capability,’ when you’re “capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” It’s the willingness to make peace with ambiguity, opening yourself up to all the unforeseen possibilities.

While I’m scared (read: petrified) to leave home—Vassar and that sense of rightness—there’s a beauty in the unknown. To wonder means ‘to doubt,’ but it also means ‘to marvel and stand in awe of something.’

So let’s take that moment we first stepped on Vassar soil, that rush of wonder in a wondrous place, and put it in our pockets. Let’s wander out of Main Gate, out of Vassar, out into the world, 2014.

Let’s wonder together.


— Matt Ortile is a former Social Media Editor and Contributing Editor of The Miscellany News, and a dancer with the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre and the Vassar FlyPeople.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *