When was the last time you seriously thought about what your life would be like 20 to 30 years from now? We rarely think about what would happen to the friendships we are so heavily involved in currently, what it would be like having a family, or whether or not we would be truly happy with the vocation we end up in. We end up focusing on more pressing deadlines that we can take care of right away, choosing to neglect any thoughts about the uncertain future.
Part of the reason why I used to hesitate to think about the future is that I fear my life will not be satisfying. I sometimes cringe imagining how terrible it might feel to reconnect with my friends a long time after we graduate, watching them have lucrative careers and luxurious lives while my standard of living is nowhere near theirs. My fear intensified over winter break. I felt conflicted between wanting to rest and feeling guilty for not carefully planning my future.
Thankfully, attending the Harvard College alumni reunion in my home country made me feel more reassured about my deeply-rooted doubts. When I received the invitation to the reunion, I didn’t want to go. I did not know anyone else who was going, and most of the attendees who RSVP’d to the Facebook event were about the same age as my parents. I worried the event would be like every other networking session, where the alumni talk about their achievements, and current students hunt for internships. I worried I would get stuck in uncomfortable conversations I could not contribute to. Nevertheless, a part of me had a glimmer of hope that maybe there would be some genuinely nice people there — after all, not all adults are as cutthroat and serious as a lot of us are.
To my surprise, the alums that came were nothing like I imagined; they somehow reminded me of a much older and slightly more classy version of my friends. I was most amazed by how the experiences we either had or are having at Harvard brought people of different ages together. While there were some incongruities, including changes to Harvard Square, there were also some things that stayed the same: memories of grinding through psets, late night conversations with your close friends, and crazy adventures.
I was surprised to hear that when Harvard College hosts alumni reunions on campus, alumni are given the option to stay in their dorms with their roommates. For those who ended up becoming very close to their roommates, being able to stay in the same dorm (many of which haven’t been renovated since they graduated) would bring back fond memories.
From the three fun hours I spent with these Harvard alumni, I walked away with a sense of reassurance that the friends I have grown to cherish now will stay forever. One alum told us that what she realized after attending college reunions every 10 years. Ten years after graduating, people are still working hard, eager to network. Twenty years later, people start experiencing the ups and downs of life and become more understanding of each other. Thirty years later, people have dealt with all sorts of difficult problems in their lives, everyone becomes extremely nice to one another. This made me smile — time and distance may bring me closer to friends that I never had a chance to get to know well during my time in college. Any sense of bitterness or competitiveness you have towards a friend may become something that both of you can leave behind and laugh at years from now.
Meeting alums who once were college students anxious about their futures like us and listening to their stories, I felt more confident than ever that my life will actually work out. Nothing feels better than knowing the friends I have grown to cherish now will stay forever, although we may not be able to see each other as often. Our shared experiences will help us revisit our past, laugh together, and even sympathize with future generations of Harvard undergraduates. So why not lay aside our stress and unhealthy desires for success and spend some time checking in with your friends and spend time enjoying each other’s companies? After all, what remains after we graduate aren’t the negative emotions, but are the small memories that we can revisit with joy.
Daniel Kim ’21, a Crimson Associate Editorial Editor, is a Government concentrator in Leverett House.