Junior year is (allegedly) when you finally know where you’re going– if not figuratively, at least literally. My junior year so far has meant much less white space on my calendar, much more to do, many more friends I want to see, and things I know just won’t get done (like posting to this blog — whoops!) — and that’s ok. Halfway into my college career (gulp!) I finally feel like this new season is one that has me coming into my own. I know what I like to study, I know what gets me riled up, and I know how much sleep I need, how much coffee I dare not go without.
It hasn’t been the easiest season. Even as things seem to be going wonderfully in some ways, I can sense more acutely how the world doesn’t always turn the way I want it to. Seeing friends go home to take care of loved ones who’ve fallen sick, hearing news of a little girl I once knew who fell and died, seeing the petty fights down in Washington, the innocents killed in Kenya or Pakistan from my computer screen. Some of it, a lot of it, doesn’t make sense. How much hurt there is in this world and yet how for the most part mine goes on in the same way, riddled at times with petty freak-outs about papers that need to be written, blog posts that have yet to go up.
The world as I grow older seems at once more beautiful and scary. Scary moreso because I know just how lucky I’ve been to make it this far with challenges that to some would be blessings, problems that to others would be welcome distractions. I was at a panel the other day and an alum looked out into the crowd and told us: Frankly– the fact is as you get older, your options become fewer, your time more precious, your flexibility less so. As you age, you will know more deaths, more sickness than you have before– but too happiness that you cannot even perceive quite yet. As I’ve watched the commotion around me, good news and bad, coming in from people I love, his words have come to mean so much more. I really have no control over all that happens around me. But I do have control over what I do about it, how I respond if at all. It’s an understanding my freshmen self might have needed.
I remember how that first fall here I felt on the edge of a world I knew not at all. I joke now that it was a freshmen FALL of epic proportions. Mostly because halfway through, I really was just falling everywhere– down the stairs of Memorial Church, up the ones leading to Sever Hall. But somewhere packed in between those falls, on ice, on earth, in my head, I remember walking across the Yard and thinking to myself gosh darn it, if I’m going to do Harvard, I’m going to do it my way. Today, I think my freshmen self would be proud.
I’m taking classes that take me from 1958, pre-Castro Cuba to the middle of Syria, through the Kennedy administration, and into the depths of a language I speak not yet: economics. (For the record, it’s basically greek to me. Peanut gallery, just pipe down.) I am no better, I hate to admit, at writing papers ahead of time or doing all my readings before section but junior year does have the perk of a me that is governed less by a fear of what I don’t know and a willingness and appetite to learn it anyways. I’ve picked classes that I love. That I am no expert in but where I am pushed, where I’m really challenged. I’m no longer intimidated by professors I read about in books or in the newspaper. They’ve gifted to me some of my most challenging and enriching conversations yet. And all of this has reminded me that even as it is so humbling and gratifying to be at the midway point in my college career, I’m nowhere near the end of it.
So junior year, shall we dance?