Senior Retrospective: Bethan Johnson

When I read all of those hundreds of books about the college selection process and the veritable national-security level background checks students are supposed to give to each school before they even send in an application, I’m fairly certain none recommend choosing a school based on how nice its library is; yet one look at the stained glass in the Vassar library marked the beginning and end of my college decision process. Even when I had my overnight visit weeks later and my host never came to pick me up, eventually sent the most hipster-looking goth I’ve ever seen, and was warned to shower quickly and, if possible, with a bathing suit on because there had been a string of people pulling the shower curtains to try and catch a glimpse— it was so bad that before the night was over I called my parents from a Raymond bathroom saying “maybe saying ‘no’ to questions like ‘do you see your style and attitude reflected in the students?’ and ‘do you feel comfortable with the living arrangement of the dorms?’ trump some cool glass”—the eternal nerd in me just kept reassuring myself that any place with such a beautiful library must be filled with people who appreciated it the way that I did. Four years later and I can safely say that I’ve only studied in the library a handful of times. Instead, despite its many foibles, I have come to appreciate Vassar for more substantive reasons than a pretty window. I never really understood myself or the world

in which I lived until I came to Vassar. It is difficult to recall what causes I actually believed in, what wrongs I wanted to help right, what kind of person I wanted to be. This is not to say that my family and my friends from high school have not played a critical role in shaping who I am—they are the most constant influences and there are not enough words in this newspaper to adequately thank them—but rather, my Vassar professors, co-workers and friends were vital in my development as an activist and a person. I entered Vassar not thinking far beyond my own circle of friends and the present, and am leaving it for a position with a national social justice lobby firm. This is the work of the people I am fortunate enough to call my friends. All my reflections of my time at Vassar must begin and end with them. I am fortunate that my time at Vassar has been filled with a particular kind of luck, as my friendships seem to have that element of magic called coincidence in them. I was placed with an amazing fellow group my freshman year in the best dorm on campus—Davison and its flaming udders forever!—with some truly inspiring people. Although we first bonded over our Student Fellow’s borderline unhealthy love of sneaking up on us and forcing us to watch One Direction music videos with her, we were fortunate enough to find our friendships overcome the “are you a Harry or a Zayn lover?” question. I signed up for an Andy Bush Jewish Studies class my first semester because the title ‘Politics,

Story, Law,’ sounded interesting. It has been four years and dozens of coffees with Andy and classmates who became friends later, and even as I leave campus I know that that single class has yet to be finished. I sent an email the first week of school begging for a newspaper assignment with The Miscellany News, thinking that I was prepared for any and everything life as a collegiate reporter could throw at me and hoping to make some friends. I was only right on one count. Having survived quite possibly the most boring article ever written that I maintain was a kind of sick initiation, I was fortunate to work with the News section and eventually to serve as the Editor-in-Chief. With The Misc, I have not only learned about random topics—from the theft of a Mastodon tusk to the deer cull—that words can be orphans, that the AP style guide is utterly misinformed about the Oxford comma, and that InDesign will crash whenever it is least convenient, but also many answers about the human condition. I know now that a human being can function pulling all-nighters once a week for five months, that people have extremely strong opinions about Hawaiian pizza, and that sassy tweeting the VSA with my friends is the only way to attend a VSA meeting. Each week we created something together, something controversial and informative, and that has bonded me to each member of our staff in an indelible way. I wandered into Rocky one January afternoon

to try to befriend some fellow Shakespeare nerds, thinking that’s what being a member of Shakespeare Troupe meant. Roughly 1,000 emails and hundreds of Ryan Gosling Shakespeare memes later, I’m fairly certain that William Shakespeare is the least significant thing that brings us together. We create “wavy” theatre together, do Droznin together, party together, and that somehow makes for amazing performances, but also amazing and transcendent friendships. I’ve done all these things and been Vassar’s only current triple major without any caffeine in my system, so one would imagine that I would be tired. While I always said that I had the attitude of an 86-year-old man and have sworn that my schedule has aged me about 50 years, I was never tired when I was with my friends and they have made me feel like my life is just beginning. My apartment doesn’t have stained glass windows and neither does my office building, but I still feel as though my life will be reflected through the stained glass window of the Vassar Library. There will always be the glow of my time at Vassar, the light of the education I have received inside and outside of the classroom, and I will always feel the warmth of my friendships.

—Bethan Johnson is an English, History and Jewish Studies major. She has held multiple positions on The Miscellany News, including Editor-in-Chief, Contributing Editor and News Editor.

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