first semester reflection.


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I was in a bookstore in Montreal over Thanksgiving holiday, and in that moment, I didn’t feel like I was making the most of my life. Just days prior, I’d heard from a friend that she reads for 30 minutes a night before going to bed, and that’s been pretty inspiring, but unfortunately for me, I am terrible at reading books. I have a mind that wanders incessantly. I do love to write though. Something about the amount of headspace it takes to do so prevents me from thinking about other things, and I’ve always found the task comparable to reading, so I made up my mind that I would write for 30 minutes a day.

I purchased the journal and kept my word. Only, today I began writing and my hand couldn’t move fast enough. I guess that is one of the downsides to journaling; once you’ve got a good idea in mind, sometimes your hand can’t keep up. The upside, however, is never having to filter yourself, as you would on a platform such as this one. So, why don’t I have a private online journal? I don’t know, really. There’s something rewarding about watching actual pages fill up, admiring your own penmanship, and gawking at the spelling errors you know you’re making.

There’s something equally rewarding about placing your material in the public eye, no matter how personal it may be, and no matter how few readers you’ve got. For some reason, you feel brave and accomplished, so here I go:

In the beginning of the semester, I was concerned that I was at the wrong school. I wasn’t wild enough for the party kids, but certainly not studious enough for the nerds. The intro courses really just start off where AP left off, and I was rejected from almost every activity/organization I applied to. Well, except for the first year social committee. If I’m good at anything, I guess it’s party planning. Never mind that one party that got busted in our dorm room.

So maybe, you come to Harvard to figure out just how mediocre you are at just about everything you thought you were decent at. At that point, it is really easy to put all of your thought and attention towards that one thing you know you can succeed at if you go about it correctly: your academics. With your classes, you’re only competing against a number, and numbers are limited, unlike the unquantifiable talent required to be one of Harvard’s best at anything, really. But no, that’s not the way to go about college either, because you realize that whether you’ve been confined to a cubicle in Lamont for 4 hours, or you’re studying in the common room of your own dorm, studying with the purpose of surpassing a particular number grade gets really depressing, really really quickly.

So then what do you do? How do you feel good about the mediocre work that you’re doing, and the opportunities you’re not exploiting?

You realize that while Harvard may be considered a springboard to success for many, maybe their are other things to be gained from being here. Maybe if I focus on those things, at least for a minute until I find my footing, I’ll experience some sort of personal growth, and feel better about my own existence.

So a lot of the times, I ask myself if I’m being a star roommate, or a stellar friend, and I constantly ask myself if I’m having a good time, and if I am challenging myself each day to become more like the person I already thought I was when I first arrived on campus.

These are things that people dismiss as unimportant, and irrelevant. When you hear kids say things like, “Harvard is just a pitstop on the road to becoming a millionaire”, you can’t help but think that something has gone amiss in your head, but after a month or so, you realize that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying Harvard for some of it’s other features.

Yesterday, one of my friends from USC asked me, what was my favorite thing to do at Harvard? The first thing that came to mind were the  genuinely pleasant times I spent on the couch in Holworthy Dozen, with friends who truly deserve everything good the world hands to them. He shared a similar sentiment, although his hangout location of choice was on the beach (LOL. only in a daydream).

I’ve met the most supportive and genuine individuals here. These are people who I’ve found care about many things other than themselves, and I’ve found that regardless of how well you’re doing on a measurable scale, these people fulfill a much needed, but less spoken of role in the community. Ever since meeting them, I have never once felt lonely, or hopeless, and those seem like small things on paper, but for anyone who has ever felt that way, you know it feels like the world is ending. I’ve found friends with a variety of interests and personalities, but I would say that to the core, we all have similar values, and that’s really the important part when building relationships. I learned a term this fall that I wasn’t really familiar with: “social climbing”. It’s just how it sounds and it’s pretty prevalent around campus. I’ve honestly never seen the point in forcing friendships, and when I meet someone and like them, I make the effort to spend time with them and foster that relationship. Obviously, you don’t have all the time in the world to spend with every great person you meet, but even just asking someone to coffee every couple of weeks is enough. Just doing small things to show that you admire their character in some way really means a lot to those individuals, and lets them know that they have people who care about them, so they don’t ever have to feel the lonely, hopeless, world is ending kind of feelings that are so prevalent on college campuses.

From this semester, I’ve also learned that since I’m really not as good at anything as I ever thought I was, and college is the last chance that we can start something new (or try something again) with the fewest repercussions, I decided that I’m going to take whatever hard classes I want, and I’m going struggle through them because by the end of it all, I will have gained knowledge on the things that I truly want to know. I didn’t have that luxury in high school because if I did that, I probably wouldn’t have had the scores to get into Harvard, and I can’t really imagine myself at any other school at this point. Now though, if my grades are not as high as I would like them to be, how important is that in the grand scheme of the life I want to have? Probably not gravely. I just don’t fear the possibility of failure any longer, and I see now that I have much more control over my own success and happiness than any institution ever could.

One weird part of college that people always ask about is the romantic aspect. It exists in various forms, and everyone goes about it differently. but what have I learned really? You know it’s quite strange because the thoughts are flowing through my head, but I just don’t feel all that comfortable punching the keys about this one. It may be best to return to pen and paper.

Anyway. The bottom line: I’ve changed in a lot of ways that aren’t entirely obviously, and I love college and would go back tomorrow if I could.