My So-Called Senior Year

My high school self, who refused to write Advanced Placement essays on anything but women’s history, spelled it “womyn,” went to Ani DiFranco concerts, and wanted to partake in single-sex education, would be ecstatic. Our class was the first to admit more women than men and to have more women matriculate; ours will be the first class to graduate under the first female university president. We have seen the first woman selected as Dean of the College and the construction of a Women’s Center. Comments by a former Harvard president about “women in science” and the often flawed U.S. presidential candidacy of a former first lady bookended our college career, but despite some public relations flare-ups and missteps, the feminist trump card came out on top. But my response? Meh.

Media outlets and peers expected me to say something insightful at University President Drew G. Faust’s inauguration, asking for my opinion as only the eighth woman to lead The Crimson in 134 years. I shrugged, because the feminist cause was not really speaking to me at the time. My biggest “woman’s issue” at Harvard was the recent removal of the free tampon dispensers from the Lamont Library bathroom.

The inauguration ceremony was on a particularly rainy, unpleasant autumn day and I was having a particularly disastrous senior fall.  I walked back to Dunster, as per usual spilling coffee on myself and stepping in puddles on an uneven DeWolfe Street, and found that my eight male roommates had used the last of our toilet paper to mop up beer. I curled up on our futon and cried, cursing womanhood, the Cambridge weather, and Crimson-induced stress.  

By last October, not only were all vestiges of high-school Kristina gone, but so too was the “polished” person I had imagined I would be after four years of Harvard education and Crimson enthusiasm. I had expected to change and  become more open-minded in college, say, by launching misguided attempts at wearing bangs or dating Republicans. I never anticipated my disenchantment with feminism, Catholicism, journalism, literary criticism, and, nay, even, Yankees Nation-alism. Every year of college had brought different forms of introspection, different groups of friends, and different goals, but three and a half years of change, rebuilding, and responsibility left me feeling spent and apathetic.

Harvard crushed my idealism and neither the 14-year-old who wanted to go to Africa as an obstetrician or the gung ho girl who thought college journalism was so, so important will make it out of here. But, it turns out, that’s not such a bad thing. At the risk of sounding too Ferris Bueller, college made me believe less in -isms, but more in myself.

One of the hardest lessons of Harvard, or maybe any college, is learning that institutions, credos, and people can and will fail you. But from that disappointment comes the great satisfaction of discovering happiness in spite of shortcomings and pride in individual actions. I still believe in the Catholic faith and the principles of social justice even if I disagreed with their proponents at Harvard; I am not waving the feminist banner or joining any newspaper masthead because I am uncomfortable with organizational flaws, but I still want to support individuals working for Hillary or the Gray Lady.

After four years, I have begun to see that defining my own life by achievements or under ideological categories is a vacuous exercise. Strides we make within the Yard only matter if they break down barriers or effect change elsewhere. I do sincerely hope that a female President of Harvard will inspire girls in China and Africa to greatness or that the articles we published at The Crimson opened some eyes or encouraged administration decisions.  

But at the end of the day, Drew Faust is a really good Civil War historian and administrator who happened to be in the right place at the right time, and I am a fledgling writer who tries to be nice to colleagues and filled some vacancies in a decent school paper. I don’t think it would matter if I won a Nobel Prize or started believing in Zen Buddhism; my roommates would still make a mess and still make fun of me. I will be klutzy and cry easily, and will love my friends and family no matter how many Harvard diplomas I receive. I am glad that these are constants.  

The times I have been happiest at Harvard are not at historical junctures or award ceremonies, but when my friends and I appreciated what the school has to offer without worrying about what was required or expected: my best friends, David and Marianne, climbing trees in the small courtyard while discussing Heidegger and recognizing the pretentiousness; long coffees in the Barker Center with girlfriends discussing our floundering thesis projects and fierce “Project Runway”; or countless nights at Charlie’s Kitchen, Grendel’s Den, or Cambridge 1 with my roommates where emotions ran as high about their classes as for the Celtics.  

These moments all blend together now, as good memories tend to (though the mishmash of anecdotes is also owing in part to the euphoria and bacchanalia of Senior Spring). While I have grown less idealistic and am unsure what my cause or my crowning achievement will someday be, after four years, I finally have had my Angela Chase moment when “just being myself, and my life, like, right where I am, is, like, enough.”

Kristina M. Moore ’08, the former president of The Crimson, is a history and literature concentrator in Dunster House.