'A Class of Their Own'

Feb celebration 3874

Feb celebration speaker Will Bellaimey reflects on what it means to be a Feb at Middlebury.

By Will Bellaimey ’10.5

The single greatest decision that I ever made was to make an x in a little box that said February only.  Now perhaps that says more about the magnitude of the decisions I’ve had to make in my short and incredibly charmed life than it does about the Class of 2010.5, but I think there is something to be said there, and I will now attempt to say it.

Febs are a class of their own. The .5 is a lot more important than numbers that come before it. Whether you’ve been with us since the beginning or jumped on the crazy train somewhere along the way, today you are a Feb. (Shout out to my adopted Febs. You are no different from your biological siblings)

Look, we’ve all been here forever. We’re the people who showed up late to the party and at three in the morning everyone has left and we’re still here dancing to Thriller in an otherwise empty room. And for those of you who don’t know what it means to be a Feb, that was not a metaphor. That exact thing has happened. Several times. This week.

Febs are just excited to be….. I was going to say excited to be Febs, but that doesn’t really cover it. Febs are just excited to be. In just a few days, people will be shuffling into Proctor feeling worn out and grumbling about how short the break felt, and then suddenly they will appear, a gigantic nuclear swarm of enthusiasm, just so excited to be actually eating in Proctor. They’ll walk right up to you at the salad bar and say “Hello, I’m Peter Spyrou, I’m a new Feb, would you like to eat some chestnuts with me?” Breaking that unspoken code of silence that the rest of us have constructed to give us a semblance of privacy. We’re like Minnesotans on our first visit to New York waving to strangers on the subway.

Seriously, why do we do that? I have several theories. One is that taking some time off, time away from that endless treadmill of academic achievement that we use to turn our best and brightest into sleep-deprived zombies with perfect SATs, taking time away from all that puts things in perspective. Whether you spent your Febmester teaching in a dirt-floored classroom halfway across the globe or waiting tables at the Greasy Spoon diner on the corner, we arrived here with a real appreciation for how blessed we are to get to spend four years in this place.

We recognize how incredible it is to live on this utopia of a campus where not only do we have hot showers and clean drinking water, we have a library filled with books that we can read at any time, kitchens filled with professional chefs preparing breakfast for us while we sleep, troupes of singers, dancers, and actors preparing new works of art to perform for us, fields and gyms and weight rooms and a climbing wall with expert coaches prepared to lead us to athletic glory, and best of all building after building filled with office after office where geniuses sit with the door half open, just waiting for you to walk in the door and ask “why do wars happen?” or “how does the kidney work?” or “why should I love Faulkner?” There’s a hallway where men and women sit all day waiting to speak Spanish with me, and a tower where astrophysicists wait to point out the constellations and a little room at the top of the stairs where a poet with a PhD in psychology waits to help me with my relationship problems. I have a 60 seat movie theater with surround sound and high definition projection. I have a mountain, a fully operational ski area. A miniature French chateau. A freezer full of hawks in weird smelling plastic bags. Kings and queens never had it so good. I mean, I will slap some sense into the next person who complains about juice at dinner.  And I guarantee you that that person will not be a Feb.

A wise man named Ben Wessel once said that to be a Feb is to get excited over nothing. But that… I think…. is everything. It’s the secret. It’s the answer. It’s the meaning of life. We don’t need to wait for a reason to be happy. We need to be joyous for no reason. Love without purpose. Give without asking why.

The problem with the American dream, the dream so often spouted on days like today, is not simply that it leaves us chasing material success, thinking that if we just get a bigger car, a bigger house, a bigger TV, then we will be happy. It’s very idea of the pursuit of happiness. Because happiness is not something you pursue. It’s something you create. On one level, we have so little control over what will happen when we walk out these doors, out of the bubble, and into the world. Maybe we’ll find jobs. Maybe we won’t. Maybe we’ll be surrounded by our friends from Middlebury all the days of our lives. Maybe we’ll never see each other again. There’s so much uncertainty. So much hope. So much anxiety.

Four years ago we pulled up in cars with our parents, just behind this chapel, about to embark on a new adventure, a new life. We were filled with uncertainty, hope and anxiety. We were new Febs, but we had no idea what that meant. And into that daunting moment stepped our Feb leaders, heroes just a year older than us, who told us that to be a Feb means to love Middlebury, to show up, to take charge, to walk right up to someone in the dining hall and say “Hello, would you like to eat some chestnuts with me?” and to create happiness everywhere we go. And so we did.

I’ve spent this speech telling you how amazing Febs are. But the truth is there’s nothing special about us at all. Somewhere down the line we just decided that we were great and it became true. It’s like that scene in the classic American film Space Jam, where Michael Jordan reveals that his “secret stuff” was just plain old tap water. We didn’t need it. We didn’t need to check the box that said February only. We just had to believe it.

I believe in this class. I have so much faith, so much hope, so much love for the people in this room. So let us go forth from this place as new Febs, emerging from this amazing time of reflection and friendship, appreciating the gift of these four years, this four year long Febmester. Let us be the Feb leaders of our entire generation. We may be arriving late to the party, but we are so excited to be here. And when Thriller comes on, no matter what time it is, we get up, and we dance.

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