Multimedia

In Photos: Harvard’s 373rd Commencement Exercises

News

Rabbi Zarchi Confronted Maria Ressa, Walked Off Stage Over Her Harvard Commencement Speech

News

Former Harvard President Bacow, Maria Ressa to Receive Honorary Degrees at Commencement

News

‘A’ Game: How Harvard Recruits its Student-Athletes

News

Interim Harvard President Alan Garber Takes the Political Battle to Washington

Summer Postcards 2008

Home

Leaving the Yard for a boyhood field

By Patrick R. Chesnut

NAPERVILLE, Ill. — The field behind my childhood home is hardly pastoral. It exists out of necessity: its long and winding bike path, surrounded by some 50 yards of grass on either side, follows power lines that prevent builders from putting up even more houses in my already-crowded suburban subdivision. But when I was growing up, that hardly mattered: it was there—for football, for baseball, for whatever game we felt like inventing on a given day. It’s still there. And on my first day back from Cambridge, with my classmates engaged in life-changing experiences and world-altering work across the globe, so was I, along with a bat, a ball, a glove, and my lifelong best friends. It would be easy to feel like I made a mistake coming home when so many Harvard students are out pursuing incredible opportunities. But luckily, my thoughts on that first summer day—and on most days since then—haven’t strayed too far from home and the little problems I find here, whether catching a flyball, digging through my bookshelf for something new, or simply figuring out what to do on a calm and quiet night. Those evenings provide a much-needed palliative when my future becomes too much of a burden, and they might be something we could all use a little more of. If there is a standard path at a diverse place like Harvard, it’s one that begins with competitive college admissions, runs through competitive internships, and ends with a competitive job in finance or consulting that is especially lucrative—and, as many have recently told President Faust, especially unsatisfying. In a wonderfully flawed exhortation in The American Scholar, William Deresiewicz excoriated elite universities and the paths they lead their students down. Students at places like Harvard, he argued, generally remain within the system, don’t take risks, and ultimately become “profoundly anti-intellectual.” “The idea of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them, defeats them,” Deresiewicz claimed. And in many ways, he’s right. As amazing as my summer at home has been, I can’t shake the gnawing anxiety that I might be compromising my education and my future. Still, I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be better for the journalist to live like the people he’s covering; or the politician, the people he’s representing; or the volunteer, the people he’s serving. Better, and healthier for him, too. But I don’t know, and I’d be lying if I said that I was thinking about these more philosophical issues when I made my decision. I was merely thinking about whether I had enough money saved up to make it to September and whether losing a summer of interning might make me lose that dream job. Maybe it will. I don’t know, but I do know what I’ve gained: 2 a.m. on my friends’ Little Italy rooftop staring at the Chicago skyline, Fourth of July at a nearby cornfield with the fireworks visible in all directions, and lazy afternoons catching up on books, TV, and my underattended thoughts. Oh, and long days of baseball in the field where I’ve been playing it for the past 14 years. Whatever happens to me after Harvard, that’s something I won’t regret. —Patrick R. Chesnut ’09, a Crimson Arts Chair, is a History and Literature concentrator in Leverett House.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags
Summer Postcards 2008