Arts and Culture

On the Precipice

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A very tired me and my gracious and awesome host student, Kelwen

I just spent prom weekend at Harvard College for Visitas, the school’s annual three-day extravaganza for admitted students. From Saturday morning to Monday afternoon, Harvard hosted a variety of events, from political debates to student organization meetings to musical performances to open classes to ice cream socials and beyond. It felt a bit weird to dive into the beginning of my next chapter without attending senior prom, a huge tradition in our culture and one of the conclusive milestones of a stereotypical high school career, but considering my passion for Harvard, my excitement about college in general, and my introverted aversion to school dances, it was ultimately easy to prioritize Visitas.

I had anticipated this special weekend since I was accepted early (to my surprise) in mid-December. I had visited Harvard twice before, once as a freshman and once as a junior. This visit was different; I wasn’t going as a prospective applicant or a tourist this time. I went under the presumption that this campus was to become my home for the next four years.

That context adds a lot of gravity to a visit! Luckily, it was a validating weekend that alleviated many of my anxieties about college. I connected with a couple extra-curricular organizations that inspire me, I made friends with some like-minded students, I absorbed some vital information about the Harvard experience, and I attended worship at the church that I hope will become my spiritual home while I’m at college.

It was an exhilarating and enlightening three days. But while I attended some events that I enjoyed, and while the school kept pre-frosh busy with all kinds of scheduled opportunities, I actually didn’t take advantage of as many officially organized gatherings as I thought I would. I got sick my first day, and, lacking the energy to socialize or process a lot of verbal information, I ended up spending most of the weekend traipsing around Cambridge, MA by myself. It’s true that the events I attended meant a lot to me, and I’m thankful for them, but what made the weekend was my aimless meandering.

The wandering had a practical benefit: I now know my way around the sprawling Harvard campus. I know how to get to all the undergraduate houses and the important academic centers. I can even find the Divinity School (which is great for me because I’m studying Religion and I’ll probably cross-register there)! I also discovered several excellent places to buy food; there’s a taco place near JFK Street that is heavenly.

Cambridge has a lot of stuff! I didn’t realize that. If you’re not familiar with Massachusetts geography, it’s right across the Charles river from Boston, and I used to lump the two together. I thought I’d stay in Cambridge for class and go into Boston (which I thought of as busier) for “fun” stuff, but in exploring even a few blocks of Cambridge, I realized that I would need an excuse to leave Cambridge. Cambridge is rife with awesome opportunities and resources. I could see myself barely getting to know the town in four years without going into Boston at all.

And yet, for all my wandering, for the sheer volume of institutions and restaurants and opportunities that I processed, I stayed within a circle with a radius of a couple miles at most. Isn’t it amazing how enormous the world is? I’ve never liked the saying about the world being an oyster because that makes the world seem claustrophobic. In standing on the precipice, in wondering while wandering about the future that awaits me and all the opportunities it holds, I was reminded that the world is anything but. It’s spacious, malleable, intricate. It leaves me an ineffably large space to grow. I’m so excited for college and for what’ll come after, and I’m not really anticipating anything specific. I just want to wander more. I want to experience and appreciate, and never lose sight of the enormity of the world around me, the enormity that was so crystal clear to me during my weekend at Harvard, my weekend when I glimpsed a sliver of what is to come.

It’s amazing; when I finished middle school and left Burley for Monticello, I was astonished because my world seemed to become so much bigger. There were more people, more extracurricular opportunities, more class choices, more personal liberties and privileges. I even remember noticing how the MHS hallways seemed more spacious. I think that as we grow and change and progress between seasons of life, our perspective widens because our environment does. This gives me hope. Wherever I am, no matter how grand it seems, there will always be something greater to discover: a bigger forest in which to wander, a bigger sea on which to sail, an ever more gigantic world to call my home.


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