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Not to brag, but I am a Never Have I Ever champion. I’ve won game after game and am regularly kicked out of games for being “too good.”
Unfortunately, despite being a champion, I have met my match in one of my best friends, Ethan. I’ve challenged him too many times to count, and lost every single time. But never have I ever given up easily — which is why I’ve made it a mission to develop the ultimate, undefeatable Never Have I Ever list (103 nevers and counting).
Having spent hours thinking about the game, take it from me: It boils down to recalling experiences that you haven’t had, but you know most have. The ultra-competitive think up experience gaps that are unique, unprecedented, and anything but normal. Sitting on my childhood bed, developing a ridiculously long list of all the things I’ve never done has made it hard not to confront that I’ve never had, and never will have, a normal first year of college.
As someone who was very much “not vibing” in high school, I desperately held onto the words of the adults around me. “College will be the best four years of your life,” they said. I’d regularly lose myself daydreaming about college life. College would be a fresh start in a new city, a world away from backyard alligators and Publix runs (though, as a good Floridian, I love them very much). I’d have my glow up; I’d be the main character — fashionable, cool, and witty — surrounded by people with extraordinary tales and experiences while learning about anything and everything I ever wanted to. I wouldn’t be misunderstood and resented for being outspoken and successful. I wouldn’t feel so lonely anymore.
In reality, it’s 4 p.m. and I’m still in pajama pants, or it’s 4 a.m. and I’m writing this op-ed. There truly is no in-between for me. Time is merely a social construct that has no meaning to me, to any of my classes, or to the professors who apparently believe that I either have all the time in the world or that I am a productivity god, neither of which are remotely true. The semester feels like an endless barrage of assignments in a world where it’s too easy to forget to breathe or even catch a meal. Though I’m lucky that I’m living at home, with the warmth of family and a year-round summer, I still remember the chilling loneliness of cold winter nights alone in my dorm last semester. In any case, I’m a ways off from my glow-up to main character status.
While my college experience definitely beats my high school experience, I refuse to count any year including a catastrophic pandemic as one of the best years of my life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an immense privilege to be a Harvard student. However, I don’t think that we, the Class of 2024, are told often enough that it is completely valid to take the space to acknowledge what has been lost. From “never have I ever had a spring break in college” to “never have I ever set foot in a friend’s dorm” or, for many of us, “never have I ever set foot on campus,” this simply isn’t the college experience we once envisioned or dreamed of.
Sure, the past year has lived up to the “first” in first year in a myriad of ways, but, somehow, I feel stuck within the paradox of hardly feeling like a freshman and feeling like I may forever be one. We’ve lost the quintessential Harvard experiences — sharing a good meal with someone new in Annenberg Hall, studying all night in Lamont Library, living in the Yard, befriending Remy, screaming at problem sets in real life instead of over Zoom, Harvard-Yale. Experiences that upperclassmen talk about that all sound like long-lost history. To further my point, for that last sentence, I had to Google “Harvard experiences” for inspiration.
I hope Harvard understands that the circumstances of the past year have made the Class of 2024 champions of Never Have I Ever, college edition. To the administration: When moving forward with planning, please remember to accommodate us forever freshies. For starters, maybe we can get our own Opening Days too? That sounds like fun. At the very least, know that I definitely won’t know how to get to any of my classes (and not just because of my absolute lack of navigation skills).
Regardless of what the next three years hold, I’m excited. I don’t need to be the main character or have a glow up; a normal day in the life with meals in dining halls and classes in person would be plenty. It’s been hard to have hope this year, but I can’t help but get excited for the in-person fall. Until then — never have I ever had a normal college semester.
Anuksha S. Wickramasinghe ’24 is a Crimson Editorial editor.
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