Checking It All Off The List

Hundreds of dicks flew by me in a whirlwind, flapping in the wind as their owners huffed and puffed around the yard. I watched awkwardly as my classmates bore all, screaming and cheering and inundating the grassy quad with flailing penises and bouncing breasts. Despite the fact that nay a semester ago I had been among the naked masses, insecurities and shyness took over that time and I spent Primal Scream Spring 2009 as a spectator, watching from the sidelines by Weld Hall.

Spring 2012 I ran my seventh out of eight possible Primal Screams. My anxious brain will not let me forgive or forget my egregious freshman spring mistake. I had missed out on my chance for perfect eight out of eight completion.

I go through life with the mentality of a tourist guidebook: In order to live to one's fullest, one must check everything off “the list.” Failure to see a sight while on vacation, attend the party that everyone's talking about, or have an experience that others have enjoyed causes a full-blown anxiety attack. Harvard has several bucket-list items that one must tend to before graduation. Go see the Hasty Pudding Show. Go attend every single lecture with every single famous person. Take Literature and Sexuality with Matthew Kaiser. Pee on John Harvard.

I've failed at many of them. I've never gone on a duck tour, or gone figure skating at Frog pond. I didn't take Computer Science 50 and I've never actually gone to see Yo Yo Ma play. Will I be able to graduate in peace knowing that I never had sex in the Widener stacks?

Graduation has got me thinking about “real world” checklist items as well. The latest obsessive thought to completely consume my brain is that my Peter Pan instinct will take over. I will “miss out” on the things you're supposed to do as a “real person” if I don't take affirmative steps to “grow up.” I will never have a real house, real job, real husband, or kids of my own. The “checklist items” of the real world. I'll die alone with cats. And my family won't be able to visit me to make me feel better, because they're allergic to cats.

There seems to be no clear trajectory of when these life milestones should and will occur. Why are some of my friends making enough to live in posh Manhattan apartments while others are living in parents' basements? What is the age for the requisite “all my friends are married” panic, and when should I give up all hope and get my eggs frozen? I am going to grad school straight out of college, but some people criticize this decision, telling me that I should go “find myself” first. Can't I find myself at grad school? Or is there some “real me” only accessible after a mandatory 12-months romp through Europe, waiting in the depths of some Parisian hostel?

They call it a quarterlife crisis. But is 22 even the appropriate age for that sort of thing?

I consulted the guidebooks. Tears streamed down my face while I searched Amazon and ordered every “quarterlife crisis” book I could find, including accidental multiple copies of the same book. The books were filled with anecdotes. Rebecca, age 22 from Connecticut lives in a house with her husband and two kids. Michael, age 29 from New Jersey, lives in a falling-down apartment with his college buddies. Jessica, age 25 from Pennsylvania has her own business that she started and lives on a comfortable salary. Jordan, age 29 from North Carolina, is still in school and living at home. There was no “job at 25, married at 28, kids at 30, house at 31” trajectory that I had hoped for. Sure, there was a “list,” but there was no clear period of time in which I could or should be able to “check” things. The guidebooks failed me.

Every logical bone in my body knew I shouldn't worry about checking things off the “life list” yet. I'm not over the hill yet or even close to approaching it. But I'm Jewish. So I worry.

“I'm only going to be able to do it seven out of eight,” I told some friends one December night in Pforzheimer House. “But you love Primal Scream!” my friend responded, incredulous that I was once an insecure freshman plagued with doubts and insecurities that caused me to spectate, rather than participate, in Spring Primal Scream 2009.“Biggest regret of college,” I told them. “Now it's too late to ever say I did them all.”

The next thing I knew, we were standing outside on the quad lawn, stark naked, running laps. “That was epic!” we yelled, laughing and screaming as we collected our stuff before Securitas/random tutors could come awkwardly confront and quiet us for the benefit of those who still had finals. Yet there was no band, no audience, no midnight countdown, and no impending exams. Could this count as my eighth primal scream, “checking it off the list?” Had I truly eliminated the obsessive compulsive disorder nightmare of being seven out of eight, just one step away from perfect completion? If a naked run happens in the Quad and no perverts are around to photograph it, does it make a [primal] sound?

For once, it didn't seem to matter.

Sara Joe Wolansky '12 is a sociology concentrator in Pforzheimer House and a former Photography Chair of The Harvard Crimson.

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