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Parting Shot

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

By Alexander R. Konrad

The days and nights of Senior Week are blending together, a combination of induced haziness and simply a ton of things going on. Every night has been wonderful, hilarious, sloppy, euphoric, or heartbreaking. I would venture that I am not alone in having experienced combinations of the above in different stages of the same evening. It’s terrifying that recollections are already blending together for me, as I can only imagine them growing more distant once we leave this place. Yet such blending also reflects the best thing about Harvard: its ability to smooth all the sharp edges of experience as we fight another day.

The events of Senior Week can serve as a recent example. On the Moonlight Cruise, some people had a great time, while others felt trapped unhappily on a three-hour tour—a three-hour tour! Yet after the higher stakes of a class-wide event, many of us just returned to our friends to keep having fun. That night was my favorite in quite a while—not for the events of the Cruise, but for the memories that followed our return to campus. Again, recollection begins to blend with time—I cannot quantify how many similar nights I have had here, having the more memorable experiences after, not during, the big event on campus. That is no slight against some of the more fun gatherings that dot a student’s calendar—just the acknowledgment that those events are also all similar after a while. It takes a massive collective memory to reminisce or feel synergy on such a greater scale.

If I am guilty of generalization here, or if others have had widely different experiences, I am not presuming that my recognition is universal. What I will miss the most about Harvard, though, is the clan that has formed around me, one that constantly fluctuates but never goes away. On any night in Quincy House, I will have friends doing something together, from building the biggest beer pong pyramids of modern civilization to squabbling with each other over cell phone use during a movie. Someone will make macaroni and cheese. Someone will come in upset. Someone will sleep through the whole day and provide an excuse for reliving it all again. We have all been busy in our own pursuits, but the pattern never broke over my four years of college.

In this collective camaraderie of college, the cliché posters originally intended for British citizens facing the Blitz in World War II are, while still the type of decoration that we will shortly outgrow, quite right in their message: Keep Calm and Carry On.

In college, there is no such thing as a zero-sum game. We bottom out only to find our friends in the dining hall the next day, ready to offer sympathy and support. We peak, only to come down to earth when we open Gmail and have one hundred emails reminding us we still have three balls in the air. Sometimes those moments have sharper emotions—success and failure in our romantic lives, the moment we read our thesis grades—but Harvard keeps moving, and we all continue to ride along with it.

Harvard is a lot of things, but one thing it is not is limiting. I’m not sure if anything really makes Harvard the best university in the world, or if we would feel any differently at another school. I do know that I would come back and do it all over if I could because there’s so much I never had time to do. The greatest temptation our school has offered may be that it makes us, as the wise Bilbo Baggins once described himself, butter spread over too much bread.

Even as the details of Senior Week will end up mixed together, I know that details will stand out, for better or worse. With every memory of strong emotion I’ve felt during the week, I also know that a second memory will follow with it. In those second memories, I’m with my friends, moving forward and putting the first one behind me. Life is too short to relive one moment for very long. Hopefully I have learned, like my university, always to carry on.

Alexander R. Konrad ’11, a former Crimson columnist and associate editorial executive, is a history concentrator in Quincy House. He hopes that a few of you will still read the Crimson event after he is gone.

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Parting ShotCommencement 2011