This column is a part of the 2011 Senior Section's Moving On Into the Real World series.
It’s Saturday night. Lady Gaga croons over a pounding dance beat. The heat emanating from the mass of gyrating bodies in the center of the room is near stifling, unabated by half-open windows at its perimeter. The floor is sticky with what one only hopes are spilled screwdrivers.
A girl approaches. Rosy from drink, the music visibly coursing through her veins, she makes eye contact and says, “I’ve never seen you here before, are you a senior?”
“No, I actually graduated last year,” you hear yourself say.
Her mouth falls. The happy bemusement in her eyes turns first into confusion, and then into disgust. The music stops and the shame starts. It’s 1:34 a.m. and you, a Harvard graduate with the world supposedly at your feet, are in a dorm room, macking on sweaty freshmen.
The nightmare described above first began to haunt me the moment I stepped through Johnston Gate as an alumnus. It had many incarnations: it happened in Cabot, in Kirkland, at Yardfest, or even, in its darkest form, in freshmen dorms, but the core elements were always the same—pop music, sweaty dorm room, and inevitable shame. It acted as an invisible force, keeping me far from campus, though from my post-grad pad I could see the Mather Towers. I didn’t want to be “that guy,” the recent graduate who still partied regularly with undergrads in a desperate attempt to recapture his college glory because it was the only glory he would ever achieve.
This vision affected me so, because when I was graduating, I couldn’t shake the feeling that my best years were behind me. As commencement drew closer, the phrase “the best years of my life were in college” evoked an increasing amount of dread. I had to believe that there was life beyond Harvard full of parties, friends, debauchery—everything that had made my undergraduate years special. I needed to believe I hadn’t peaked, that my best years were not behind me, that I wouldn’t become “that guy.”
And I didn’t become “that guy.” And surprisingly, it wasn’t very difficult. Life after Harvard is full of amazing new experiences—swanky charity dinners, club parties, trips to see friends in far-flung locales—and some that feel familiar (read: sweaty apartment parties). And though it may not seem like it now, on the eve of Commencement, your life after Harvard can be as vibrant and fun as it was at Harvard.
So now my dorm-room nightmare comes less frequently as I grow more confident that my best years are yet to come. There is an abundant supply of pounding dance music, steamy rooms, and sticky floors ahead, and I hope you will join me in making the most of it. Congratulations Harvard Class of 2011—welcome to the big kid party.