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My younger cousin applied to colleges this year as a member of the incoming Class of 2025. After losing their entire senior year to Covid-19, they began dreaming out loud about a freshman fall filled with enough parties and events to compensate for all they had lost. The desperate yet hopeful pining for a vaccine that would turn everything back to normal sounded painfully familiar to me. As the Class of 2024 lost their admitted students’ days, we pushed our hope onto proms and graduations that were initially set to be postponed. But when those too were canceled, a waning hope was set on our last resort: freshmen fall of college. However, with time, it became evident that this pandemic was not stopping for any of us.
At first, I mourned the loss of my long-fantasized-about experiences. I had planned out the details of my picture-perfect end to high school years in advance. I imagined myself beaming as I walked into each classroom to tell my teachers about all of my college acceptances. I pictured my graduation party, where my relatives would gather together to congratulate me on being the first in the family to attend an Ivy League college. I envisioned a summer finally spent with my best friends after neglecting them for so long in the pursuit of APs, extracurriculars, and college applications. The loss of these moments I had spent years expecting hurt in a way that lingered.
I told myself that it was selfish and frivolous to dwell on these things while so many others were going hungry, losing their homes, and even dying. I told myself that I needed to let these things go. I repeated that thought frequently enough that I eventually began to believe I really had let them go. In reality, I was still holding on to these losses as tightly as ever. They were merely wrapped up in denial thick enough that I wouldn’t cut myself on its edges.
My resentment over what I lost manifested in subtle ways. Even as I was consoling my cousin over the loss of their senior year and saying that I, too, wished for them to get a true freshman fall experience, the tiniest part of myself held me back from complete sincerity. A small, dark corner of my brain hoped that they would also experience the loss of senior spring and freshman fall — it was only fair that if I had to lose both, then they should lose both as well. At first, it was easy enough for me to ignore this feeling. I considered the thought benign since it would never translate into actions — it wasn’t as if I could change the course of the pandemic one way or another.
But every time I talked to my cousin about them starting college in the fall, that ugly wish always reappeared. Rather than sharing in their emotional ups and downs and standing by their side to support them, I kept myself emotionally distant. I became scared that the almost imperceptible distance separating us right now might grow into an emotional divide that would eventually break apart our close relationship.
All it took to change my mindset was the realization that I was lying to myself by acting as if I had let go of my losses. After earnest introspection, my twisted hopes were exposed as the delusions they truly were. It is impossible to gain lasting happiness from others’ suffering, especially from that of the people I love most. I could only gain happiness from their happiness.
I realized that this aimless resentment towards the world was a dangerous feeling to harbor because, without a target to blame, it began to latch onto innocent bystanders. This sort of feeling can come in many forms. It may end up making you resent the friend who got a job offer when you didn’t or the family member who didn’t inherit the same illness as you. This resentment is, at best, unproductive bitterness and, at worst, it can fester into a hatred of progress itself.
Just as I did everything required to get to my senior year of high school, the Class of 2025 has done just as much and deserves just as much and then some. Surviving a full year of online classes in high school and turning out college applications during a particularly competitive and stressful cycle is no small feat. To hope that they get any less than what they’ve earned is willing more unfairness into the world. Life is unfair, but the remedy to unfairness is not more unfairness — it is justice.
To the incoming Class of 2025, I hope that you allow yourself to confront your losses without guilt and properly make peace with them. With mass vaccination rollouts already underway and the official announcement that Harvard is planning for a full return to campus, we have a lot to look forward to. I hope that you feel all the excitement that you deserve to feel before starting college. I hope you find yourself part of a community that you can call home for the next four years.
I hope, with every part of my being, that the Class of 2025 has the best freshman year that Harvard has ever seen. And if there are celebrations, I hope you celebrate hard enough for two classes.
Rasmee E. Ky ’24, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Lowell House.
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