For the past two weeks, I’ve been watching Tercentenary Theatre transform. During the school year, that historical quadrangle—home to the ivory tower of Memorial Church and the stately columns of Widener Library—is flooded with the creatures of Harvard’s present, from undergraduates to grad students to esteemed faculty to excitable tourists and feisty squirrels. But for the past two weeks, the Theatre has been transforming piece by piece into something timeless, something full of ritual—a place that reminds us of its deep history and the immense grandeur of this university we call home. Yesterday, a few thousand chairs were imported. The day before, a series of enormous light fixtures were secured. A stage is forthcoming. And as the Theatre changes, so too does our relationship to Harvard. When we cross that recently assembled stage, we go from being part of Harvard’s present to part of its illustrious past. Likewise, Harvard becomes a completed stage in our unfolding lives.
This school will never leave us. But how can we successfully transition from being here to having been here? As the Memories chair of the Senior Class Committee, I worry a lot about preserving memories. I sometimes worry that I won’t remember what it felt like to arrive at Freshman Formal, to tear up the floor in an Expressions Dance Company show, to race into lecture seven minutes late, to work in Quincy Dining Hall ’til sunrise, or to pick up compers for Crimson Grand Elections. As new experiences wash over us, how can we keep these memories alive, so that we remember all the beautiful things we’ve learned at this school? I had the same concern when I left India, where I was fortunate enough to spend two months last summer: How can I draw on what I’ve learned and felt here, I thought, even when I’m nestled back in my New Quincy dorm?
Well, I’ve learned there are a few things you can always take with you. One is people. I have Indian food with the friends I traveled with in India several times a month, and I see most of them much more frequently than that. We reminisce, we reflect—but mostly we just live and continue to grow together. We became friends because of shared experiences, but we’ll stay friends because we have woven ourselves into each other’s lives. We must do the same thing with our friends here. In a few years, Harvard will only be how we met, not why we’re friends. We must prioritize our friendships and grow together, enriching our lives with the diverse and open and brilliant people we befriended here.
Other things we can take away are confidence, inspiration, and the innumerable lessons about life and ourselves we’ve learned here. While at Harvard, I learned how to traverse Boston on foot. How to foster community during an emergency. How to read long books. And old books. And children’s books. How to filter my gmail. How the universe was (probably) created. The difference between horror and terror (shout-out to Professor Kaiser.) How much impact a group of passionate students can have. How immense the challenges faced by our generation will be. How to build a set. How to dance like a Bollywood star. That Legally Blonde is the most fun musical ever created. How to deconstruct social construction. And that Quincy is the Best House. Ever. These realizations and lessons and this accumulated confidence to try new things and take risks will continue to be part of us, informing our actions and decisions and abilities.
I’m going to miss so much about our lives here. The intellectual curiosity radiating all around us. The way you can throw four girls in a room in Pennypacker and create lifelong friendships. The fact that you’re never more than ten feet away from someone who can teach you guitar or make an iMovie or speak six languages. What else can we take with us as we lose our dining hall and library privileges, our access to unbelievably talented faculty, our proximity to the teeming, vibrant, communities where anything is possible?
Let’s take our memories, but let’s take more than that. Let’s take our friends. Let’s take our skills. Let’s take our enhanced knowledge of what makes us tick—what makes us happy, sad, stressed, curious. Let’s be inspired to create communities as strong and beautiful as the ones we’ve inhabited here, and to improve the world with all we’ve gained. Let’s cross that stage in Tercentenary Theatre, leaving behind a bit of ourselves in Harvard’s past (and Harvard’s Archives—I see you thesis!) but also taking away as much as we can, bringing our Harvard experience into the world and into the future. Enter to Grow in Wisdom. We did. Depart to Serve Better Thy Country and Thy Kind. Let’s do it.
Julie R. Barzilay ’13, a former Crimson news executive, is a History and Science concentrator in Quincy House.
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