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Tackling the Post-Harvard Stack

By Barbara E. Martinez

My classmates and I have spent our last few weeks at Harvard preparing for life as alumni. Along with the personal responsibilities that come with graduating and moving on (packing up our rooms, saying goodbye to friends, seeing the parts of Boston we never managed to visit) are a multitude of institutionally imposed duties. There are so many of these duties that I have a pile of Harvard "to do" mail next to my computer.

I have already completed the most important task for post-Harvard life--registering for my.harvard and a post.harvard e-mail forwarding address. I became addicted to e-mail during first-year week and can not now imagine keeping in touch with my friends without e-mail, especially since they will scatter to all corners of the globe come June 8. One of my roommates is going to India, the other is staying here. I will head to Washington, D.C. One of my best friends heads to Australia, while another does not know where she will be. It could be anywhere.

When I registered for my.harvard, I came across a wide array of services that came with the essential post forwarding address. There were bulletin boards, chat rooms, "professional connections"--I breathed a sigh of relief.

The thought of leaving Harvard is terrifying. While the College had its flaws, it fulfilled the admissions office promises of a comfortable and stimulating environment like none I had experienced before. My fellow students don't always do the most intelligent things, but they are all intelligent. Everyone has something interesting to say. People are excited by ideas. Dissent and disagreement are welcome. And Harvard has taken care of me: housing, food, social events, health services, advice, my first job, even toilet paper--I credit Harvard with putting all of these at my fingertips.

These services came with the tuition, but I'm only now realizing that I paid for them. Before now, I saw these benefits as privileges of membership in the Harvard community. And I have to say I'm addicted to them. I'll admit that I didn't actually write those tuition checks; my father did. He and Harvard conspired to make me feel like I belonged here, like it was my home, not a four-year dork resort with great courses and an e-mail address to boot. I practically cried this morning when I swiped my ID to enter Quincy House and realized that in a matter of days all these wonderful places--libraries, courtyards, dining halls--will be closed to me.

All the mail in my "to do" pile preys on this fresh undergraduate addiction. Right on top is a flier with a picture of the richly and traditionally appointed Harvard Faculty Club on the cover. In brackets below the photo: "warm welcome". It's almost too good to be true. For a mere $60 introductory membership, I can join the Harvard Faculty Club. This most elite institution will welcome me to sit by the hearth. But does this cheapen Harvard? I wonder what the professor who gave me a "C" in statistics would think to see me lounging around his club? But I momentarily considered joining.

Underneath the Faculty Club "invitation," is a packet of information about the Harvard Club of New York. Not quite as open--I'd have to interview to join that wood-paneled and leather-appointed Harvard haven. But if I didn't make it, or as is the case, don't happen to live in New York, I can donate $25 to Harvard Magazine and receive a thank you gift of glasses decorated with scenes from the Yard. Maybe I'll put them underneath my diploma framed underneath a watercolor of Johnston Gate--the next offer in my pile.

My entry-level salary might not pay for all these little pieces of Harvard nostalgia, but that's okay because at the bottom of the pile are the credit card solicitations. I've gotten these throughout college, but am finally considering them now that I'll have an income. Maybe I'll start by ordering the class picture. Or a videotape of the Commencement Morning Exercises. That way I'll be able to transport myself back to Harvard whenever I want, this assuming of course that I'll live in a place supplied with VHS.

To ensure such a lifestyle, maybe I should have considered going through recruiting. If I were working at a consulting firm, I could definitely have an apartment and health insurance and maybe even a car or vacation now and then. Some people say they do it to pay off their college loans, but I don't buy that. It's fear. I recall a moment during my first year when a friend of mine inspired me--he couldn't go out that night, he said, because he needed to study for Gov 10. He needed to get at least a 3.8 GPA to get into Harvard Law School. "What drive, what motivation!" I thought. And then proceeded to go out for the night. This young man now? I believe he'll be working for McKinsey.

But no one seems to know for sure where they'll be in "a couple of years." Is that when the ill-fated plans of grad school or public service will return? Is that when those of us who went off to "save the world" right after graduation will decide it's time to settle down and pay off the loans for a change? My.harvard is prepared for our eventual turn toward financial responsibility--not only can you give to Harvard right through the site, but you can customize it to track your personal stock portfolio.

It doesn't really matter though where we scatter to, because we'll always have our post.harvard forwarding addresses. There will always be a little piece of Harvard that is our very own. And as I graduate, I admit that post.harvard is a comforting thought. Maybe I should give a little something to Harvard, just to say thanks for that post address.

Wherever we go, whatever we do and for whatever reason we do it, I hope each member of the Class of 2000 spends some time apart from Harvard. A week without checking the e-mail, a year without joining the club, a party without anyone from Harvard--there must be something out there we're missing. What would life be like had we never come here? I hope I have the courage to toss away my "to do" pile and find out. But only after I take my mother to lunch at the Faculty Club with my two-for-one promotional coupon.

Barbara E. Martinez '00, a History concentrator in Quincy House, was executive editor of The Crimson in 1999.

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