This year was to be my opportunity to do everything I wished I had done at Harvard that had somehow eluded me during my first three years. From seeing the glass flowers collection to attending a hockey game to enjoying a Gilbert and Sullivan performance to learning to scull along the Charles, I had a lot to do in very little time.
Apparently I was not alone. The Senior Class Committee sent each senior a long list of “things to do before you graduate.” I diligently checked off the things I had done—an unsatisfyingly small number of activities due to the amount of time I had spent working as editorial page editor on The Crimson—and left the bright red piece of paper on top of the stack of papers on my desk. It would be the thing I saw every morning as I went to class and every evening as I set my alarm.
But then fate intervened. What had seemed to be an innocent snowball fight during the first heavy snowfall ended in a sudden crunch as my femur snapped. Initially, I was sure I would make it to The Crimson’s Grand Elections ceremony the next day, at which we would welcome the new members of the editorial board. I thought that I would continue my duties as editorial chair, enjoy the final lectures of my fall term classes, and return to Cambridge for yet another reading period.
Yet as I learned my prognosis, it became clear that grand elections would be the least of my concerns. I would need surgery, be home for six weeks, on crutches for three months, and—if all went well—I would be off a cane in five. Forget sculling on the Charles—my chief concern suddenly was being able to walk at Commencement.
Harvard may be a depressing place during reading period, but I was suddenly nostalgic for and sad about everything I would be missing. I wanted to spend a late night in Lamont, watch the Patriots with my roommates when I really should have been studying, and be told by a curmudgeonly exam proctor that I would be held “incommunicado” if I felt ill during an exam. Most of all, I did not want to miss my final weeks as an editor at The Crimson and all of the traditions that came at the end, such as running a final editorial meeting and watching the presses in the basement print the Class of 2008’s final paper as editors.
Yet when I called into editorial meetings, talked with my friends about life at Harvard, and video chatted with colleagues during the final press run, the events fell short of my lofty expectations. And when I finally returned to Cambridge to start the second term, I began to do a few things on my list—going to the Fogg, taking an art history class, seeing the glass flowers—and while I enjoyed myself, checking an item off that list was not the capstone experience I had hoped it would be. Even when my successors as editorial chairs were kind enough to let me lead one final editorial meeting, I gained a sense of closure but it was not nearly as thrilling as I had imagined it to be. What, I wondered, had I been so unhappy about missing as I was recovering at home?
The answer to that question came into focus when I least expected it to—not when doing things I had always hoped to do, but during the most routine and seemingly mundane moments. I had missed bumping into old friends for a brief conversation between classes, cheering on the Celtics in the Eliot grille, and late-night snacking at the Kong. I had missed enjoying old jokes with my roommates in the dining hall, hearing the card swiper call everyone who walked in for a meal “my baby,” having a friend ask me if I was free for lunch nearly every day, and shooting pool with the guys at the Pub.
In other words, what I had been missing all along—what makes Harvard so special—was not the hallowed grounds, the endless opportunities, the vaunted traditions, or any “must-do” activities. It was the people. From my closest friends to the acquaintances I bump into every few months, from peers to tutors to faculty, Harvard is the most amazing collection of people I’ve ever been around. And although I will not be leaving Harvard—I will start my Ph.D. here in the fall—I want to delay graduation just as much as my friends who will be leaving Cambridge for good because the Harvard I have grown to love, the Harvard made up of my peers in the Class of 2008, will be gone when I return.
After turning in my thesis, I cleaned off the stacks of drafts and notes on my desk and found that red piece of paper. I began to check off a few things, paused for a second, and dropped it in the trash. With nine weeks post-thesis and nearly-recovered from my injury—I will be walking as good as new today—I pledged to myself that I would spend as much time as I could seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and treasuring my time with the people I have seen every day. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Adam M. Guren ’08, a former Crimson editorial chair, is an economics concentrator in Eliot house.