Gosh how it all seems to change. So fast, so fast. There are less than a 60 days now till Graduation, the big culmination to a 4 year journey that has me calling Cambridge home. You don’t really realize how fast things change until you’re sitting in the stillness, in the dark with just you and your thoughts. I had one of these moments recently, sitting with a friend on the steps of Memorial Church in the Yard just around midnight. It’s remarkable how still Harvard Yard is at that time–a far cry from the hustle and bustle that usually has us with headphones in and iphones out, rushing from one class to the next during the day. We hardly look up to notice. And yet, in the middle of the night, the expansive view of Widener Library before me, it was nothing short of breathtaking. I used to live in this Yard as a freshman, made my first treks to a college classroom through it, slid down my first snow slope on a dining hall tray, and listened to many a performer and speech giver and tour guide talking about the “3 Lies of the Harvard Statue.”
Daniel Kahneman wrote a fascinating book entitled Thinking, Fast and Slow. It’s about the distinction between our experiencing self and our remembering self. Atul Gawande draws on Kahneman’s work in his latest release, Being Mortal as he discusses the way that medicine cares for patients in their old age and what it means to prolong life as opposed to preserving its quality and the happiness it can bring. He has a beautiful line in that book which reads,
“In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all of its moments—which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens…”
Harvard-Yale 2014 was hands down the best football game I have ever been to. Not, perhaps, because of the actual logistics of The Game (also, notably, it was ESPN #gameday), but because it was my last H-Y as an undergraduate at Harvard. It was the last time I would sit with my blockmates and huddle on those metal stands as we gritted our teeth for an 8th straight Harvard victory against Yale. The last game day pancake breakfast surrounded by streams of red and bright, Yale blue filling all of our Harvard Houses with school pride. The last time I would see the tailgates flooded with my classmates and friends as we all reveled in the biggest sports tradition of our year. Harvard-Yale 2014 was one to remember.
There’s something about the wee hours of the morning/night that make you feel like anything is possible. You know for sure that peace and quiet are definitely possible, but the fact that inspiration can strike while the rest of the world is sleeping also keeps you on the edge of your seat. Granted, there may be other contributing factors to your antsiness–that unfinished pset, an excess amount of coffee or T. Swift’s latest chart-topper reminding you that “it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames” (if we’re referring to the pset, then we hope that it’s neither of those).
One of my friends and I were talking about this recently–the fact that these late night hours are undeniably some of our most unique, uninterrupted bits of the day (even if they make you careen into self-loathing at about 3pm the following afternoon when it’s time for a nap). But still, it’s my shred of magic.
Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.
Inesha’s special decorative touch (+ me invading her space)
These days when I look at my list of “to-do” items for the day, I usually find “soul-searching” at the very top. Of course it’s not literally written there, but it underlies everything that I do and every path that I’ve been walking lately.
So I’m starting to realize that I love this Mather Library Desk. It’s while sitting here that I do a lot of my reflecting, thinking these days. And often it happens on Friday afternoon (to be fair, that’s when my library shift is). It’s a little blessing that has made a world of difference. And when things don’t go as I planned, and my mom worries or wonders just a little bit more, I realize that spending a little time with myself is really the best antidote to the self-doubt that creeps up on us every once in a while. And not just “spending time” in the sense of watching yet another rom-com (though, honestly, there are probably few that I haven’t yet seen), or pitying myself while eating chocolate chip cookie dough. Goodness, no. I’m talking about the kind of reflection that has me inspired, creative, hopeful. That last one is most important of all.
^^I mean that title literally. Yesterday, I was standing less than an arm’s length from Barbara Walters as she got into her big black SUV following a conversation with Professor David Gergen at Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP). The fan girl in me had already swollen to epic proportions and, as they say in the twitterverse, I was feeling absolutely #noshame. She is legend, and to both hear what she had to say to a room full of students and stand that close made me feel as though I was breathing in at least a small portion of what made her great.
But of course, you wake up the next morning and quickly realize that you are still the 20-something, struggling, wondering, infinitely blessed and yet infinitely worrying college student who still views greatness as something that steps into black SUVs and walks past on Harvard sidewalks as opposed to something actually achievable. It is the cruel irony of this place that it inspires as much as it grounds you in the hopes that you will remember just how far you have to go. But as Barbara Walters said to a crowded room at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, in order to get there, you really can’t shy away from the hard questions.