The Great Beyond
There’s no doubt in my mind that Harvard has prepared me for the variety of professional and personal challenges I’ll face long after my Crimson Cash runs out. When my boss wants a response paper by midnight, I’ll have it covered. When my spouse wants another response paper by midnight, I’ll have that one covered, too. And come tax season, you can bet I’ll have my response paper uploaded on time to the my.IRS portal. Who says Social Studies doesn’t teach practical skills?
But despite my ability to substitute Keystone Light for food, Harvard hasn’t prepared me for—*gulp*—relocation. No matter how much I beg, or how securely I tie myself to a New Quincy radiator, I’ll be forced to take my Lynyrd Skynyrd collectors’ t-shirts and move somewhere that isn’t here. Most seniors face a similar dilemma, and even those continuing onto the ranks of post-grad academia are likely doing so outside the Crimson bubble. A lucky few will spend the months after graduation traveling, an effective method for postponing real life’s eerie call. Yet barring a lifelong position with Let’s Go, they too must eventually take root somewhere. Those of us entering the work force will head wherever our respective jobs take us, that is, as soon as we get those assignments from OCS.
For the 91 percent of Harvard students from New York, this doesn’t sound all that bad. Most will return to their old stomping grounds for lucrative careers in consulting companies or consulting other consultants on consultations (the “Inception” of the consulting world). New Jerseyites will blend in with the New Yorkers, Californians will move to L.A., and foreign students will congregate in London, the city of a million silly accents.
That leaves a small minority of us who hail from an area of the country that isn’t as sunny an option lest we aspire to not aspiring. With the exception of Chicago, there simply isn’t the same concentration of talent and energy to which we’ve become accustomed in the collegiate Northeast, nor is there a proliferation of the startups and fast-track fellowships we crave. There’s a sad brain drain pulling the country’s best and brightest toward the coasts. And so we merry few of the geographic in-between will face the added challenge of seeking out entirely new lifestyles in entirely new locales. Our foray into the real world will consequently be mixed with pangs of homesickness and escaper’s guilt, and perhaps a ting of remorse.
But as many Eastern philosophies are so quick to point out, life, it seems, moves in cycles; we’re here today, gone tomorrow, then suddenly back here the day after that. And as we forge our paths into adulthood, there might come a time when physical location is no longer a product of where we must live, but rather where we want to live. For the future doctors and lawyers among us, any population with a collective pulse can mean gainful employment, even in your old backwoods hometown. In an age where domain names can be more important than a company’s location, that next great entrepreneurial endeavor might work as well in Silicon Valley as it does in Podunk, USA. As much as our generation of movers and shakers yearns to go where the action is, we’re also poised to usher in a new age of global connectivity by taking our drive and experience right back to the grassroots from which we sprang.
Physical separation need not breed emotional distance, and connections can be maintained even among those who never return to their ancestral plots. Moving to Manhattan might make you a New Yorker, but it doesn’t unmake you a native of Arkansas or Missouri. Even if I never move back to live among the salt of the earth, I’ll still have an unwavering definition of home. For me it’s a pristine patch of bluegrass right above Tennessee, a place that shaped my formative years and comprises an important part of who I am. And because of that link, no matter where the rat race takes me, it will forever remain a part of who I become.