Oh sure, I knew exactly what I was doing when I went to college.
People would ask me if I was nervous. I just nodded, all the time thinking, "Didn't I just finish three years in a large boarding school? Didn't I come from New York City? Wasn't I likely to know at least 10 percent of my class? Wasn't I ready to take on Harvard?"
I was ready. No one could tell me anything about what school was like. I didn't read these columns when I got the first-year issue of The Crimson, because I was sure I didn't need anything in them.
I got to college and embarked on my carefully laid-out schedule. I went to the first Crimson meeting so I could start my comp immediately. When I got there, I even laughed at one of the comments that was supposed to frighten all the first-year students. I knew better.
I took all the popular courses. I was too cool to hang out with first-year students, and after a week I never ate in the Union, and never attended first-year parties.
Suddenly it all started to go wrong.
I didn't get along with my roommates, who had seemed ideal at first glance. We didn't fight, but we just didn't have much in common. I spent less and less time in my room, less and less time with my classmates in general.
I didn't make a lot of friends in my class. I hung around with my friends from high school, who were at least a year ahead of me, and I hung around The Crimson. Who had time to meet people?
My high school boyfriend and I broke up. Both of us tried to hang on, but it was just too hard being at different schools. Meanwhile, I had met no one.
Add to this some ongoing family problems and general depression, and you will have a vague idea of how I felt. I have never been so unhappy, I am glad to say, before or since. It was a miserable October, moving into a worse November.
Then came Matt.
He was a senior at The Crimson, who happened to be my comp advisor. At first, he was really annoying. He seemed to expect so much from me, and I just didn't feel up to it. He would ask me what was wrong with me if I took a nap in the afternoon. (Sleeping a lot is, indeed, a common symptom of depression, but I didn't know that then.)
On the other hand, at least he was taking an interest in my life, and he seemed to be the only person at Harvard who was doing so. We started talking, first about superficial things, and then about anything of interest or importance. By January, we spent all our time together.
The time was special. We would eat together, especially late at night, walk along the river or on one of the beautiful Cambridge streets, sit anywhere there happened to be a seat and talk for hours on end.
Matt's one drawback, particularly if you ask my mother, was that he was seriously involved in a long-term relationship from which he was unwilling to extricate himself. It was certainly a major drawback, and an important strain on our relationship.