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.
Place also matters, just as much as the people who fill it. Which brings me back to this desk. Mather library has never been my favorite among Harvard’s book-filled wonderlands. It’s certainly not the most beautiful—nor is it always the most quiet (we’ll blame the construction going on next door + rowdy but lovable house mates for that one :)) It’s also neither the most well-stocked nor the best outfitted with a student’s best asset (outlets for our over-abundance of gadgets that need charging). But it is home. I can leave this desk and walk out the door to run into my friends and roommates as they make their way to the gym or the common room or up the stairs to the dining hall. I can go to the coffee machine and talk to Betty or Michelle or any one of the dining hall staff who greet me as if they really are home too, even though I know that their own families await them elsewhere. My roommates and friends will mosey on up to the lounge later for our wine&cheese&thesis night just because there’s really no better way to spend a Friday night than with the most brilliant and creative minds I know—both the ones that turn their brilliance into an endless number of jokes for my amusement and the ones who authored my history and anthropology and biology texts that will source my soon-to-be bibliography. And, of course, there’s always the wine :)
Senior year has me reflecting more than any other time in my life. It has me being grateful to be here and excited to think about what’s next. It also has me battling the deep, gnawing sadness that the familiar faces and places and–yes—even this little Mather library desk won’t be my usual Friday afternoon place this time next fall.
And because I can quote-hoard with the best of them, I’ll leave you with two that are keeping me warm lately. The first has me thinking back while my surroundings have me inevitably thinking forward—they are the words of the incredible Michael Ondaatje (a Sri Lankan!):
“During certain hours, at certain years in our lives, we see ourselves as remnants from the earlier generations that were destroyed. So our job becomes to keep peace with enemy camps, eliminate the chaos at the end of Jacobean tragedies, and with ‘the mercy of distance’ write the histories.”
-Michael Ondaatje, Running in the Family (New York: Vintage, 1982), 179.
And for the second, words from the wonderful Drew Faust. She gave a speech recently at Booker T. Washington High School in Texas making “The Case for College”:
A quality college education teaches you how to begin to educate yourself, a project that will last the rest of your life. It offers a laboratory of possibility.
…And so I leave you with a question: “Who can you be? Do you want to be that?” Wherever you go, whatever you do next, take up that challenge. Ask that question. You deserve no less.
-Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard University President
And for friends who keep me sane, loved, and happy