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I’ve spent a large part of the last year reflecting on my time at Middlebury. I can't say I've had any remarkable revelations or anything, at least not yet. Maybe those will come when I finally pack my things and cruise down Rte 125 for the last time. I've pictured that moment a lot, particularly now, with Commencement only weeks away, smiling as I sail down the hill behind Ross, eyes locked on something far off in the distance, smiling even more as I keep my speed and pass by the turn into Ridgeline, taking it all in—how it feels to be free—refusing to look back, not even to bid the shrinking  h e l l s c a p e  one last farewell. 

That's generally how those reflections go. Well, that's generally how they end. They often begin somewhere else entirely—like with a memory, usually something painful, something I'd rather not remember from my time here at Middlebury, but it doesn't take long before I wind up at this fantasy, this great escape, windows down on Rte 125, blasting a 90s pop anthem, not because I like it, but because it feels right, because it was made for this moment, this euphoric rebirth, one that begins with a cross-country road trip, as rebirths often do.

While there's something about this fantasy that brings me comfort and joy, there's also something about it that fills me with shame and guilt. 

"Joy is definitely political...Joy, pleasure, everything—because when those things were created they weren’t meant for us. They weren’t meant for bodies like ours. And when we find joy and feel it, we say to the system, 'Listen, you ain’t shit.'"

- Ntebaleng Morake

a queer, Black womxn scholar, educator, and social justice activist from South Africa