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The Giant Millipede & the Subtle Art of Not Complaining

By Mireya Sánchez-Maes, Contributing Opinion Writer
Mireya Sánchez-Maes ’24 is a joint concentrator in English and Theater, Dance, and Media in Currier House. Her column “Insect Insights” appears on alternate Wednesdays.

Dearest Readers,

It is with great concern that I announce the presence of a pernicious and rapidly growing infestation throughout Harvard’s campus. In a matter of weeks, it has found its way into every classroom, dorm, and dining hall, and while protocol is already in place for handling such infestations, this particular occurrence has proven highly resistant to conventional treatments. The CDC has issued a statement describing the situation as, “really bad… probably? I mean, I dunno. We really only do disease stuff,” and that one guy from your Gov lecture has called it, “hella wack.”

It is therefore strongly advised that all residents proceed with extreme caution, for Harvard has become hopelessly and completely infested…by negative attitudes. Yup. Now I know that sounds like something your second grade teacher might say after little Johnny decides to break all the purple crayons, but you know what? Second grade teachers know what’s up! And surely, you guys have noticed this too.

Harvard students love to complain. A lot. Like, it borders on ritualistic.

A typical interaction might look like this: someone asks you how your day was. You sigh and explain that “it all started when the dining hall ran out of lemon smoked salmon.” Of course, what you should be saying is, “Woah. The dining hall had smoked salmon? That’s crazy!”

Too often, our minds tend to fixate on the negative. We obsess over things we don’t have. We constantly compare ourselves to others. We critique before we compliment. To be fair, as a satirist – and more importantly, as a low-income Latina – it’s abundantly clear that an elite institution like Harvard has a lot to critique. But that work gets tiring, fast. And if we forget to take stock of the amazing gifts we have, we risk losing our ability to see them in the first place.

So, because Harvard no longer has a Gen Ed course devoted to “Positive Psychology,” I’m gonna give us all a crash course the only way I know how – through the educational medium of obscure insects! Here’s how this will work: I’ll present you with an imaginary scenario, and together, we’ll talk through some possible positive and negative responses. Naturally, insects will be featured prominently. You’re welcome.

Okay, it’s time for class so you begin your daily trek from the Quad. Some people might complain that the Quad is “too far,” but this is because they are dead inside. In truth, the daily exercise means you are now hot as hell with legs for days.

You enter your first class. Some people complain that the professor is boring, but judging by her faculty bio, the Pulitzer Prize committee disagreed. In the middle of the classroom is a giant millipede, otherwise known as “Archispirostreptus gigas.” There’s no metaphor here. It’s literally just a giant millipede. Some people might complain, “Uggghhh. It’s sooo annoying when non-sentient millipedes audit Harvard lectures.” But they are just jealous of the millipede’s 4.0 grade point average. In truth, millipede’s have tons of rad traits!

For example, the “Archispirostreptus gigas” is the world’s largest species of millipede, and has anywhere from three to four-hundred legs. Talk about athletically gifted, am I right? Not only does this make them every crew team’s dream, but you just know all those appendages would look great in a varsity sweater.

Moreover, giant millipedes are self-proclaimed pacifists. If threatened, they simply curl into a ball and secrete an odorous substance to fend off the attacker. Coincidentally – curling into a ball and releasing odors is an excellent way to win a fight in real life. If the Harvard wrestling team adopted this strategy, I’m sure they would end their season undefeated.

Now, if you’ve read this far and find yourself thinking, “Wow, Mireya. This was such a great exercise! It’s so refreshing to focus on the good in things, and, although we’ve never met, it seems like you’d have a great taste in music!” Then congrats. You are now ready to face Harvard’s infestation with a renewed appreciation for life’s gifts.

But if, instead, you instead find yourself thinking, “Wow. This article had, like, zero foreign policy references. So lame. Also, millipedes aren’t insects – they’re arthropods. How does Mireya not know that?!” Then it seems you are beyond my, or the millipede’s, help.

Mireya Sánchez-Maes ’24 is a joint concentrator in English and Theater, Dance, and Media in Currier House. Her column “Insect Insights” appears on alternate Wednesdays.

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