Harvard is a magnet for the superstitious: its students want everything, and if you say you want everything, you better be sure to knock on wood, lest you jinx yourself.
When we Ivy League aficionados opened our Harvard decision letters one or two eons ago, we didn’t simply open them. Maybe you gathered your family and friends around your laptop to share in the moment (I hope not, because that is the definition of jinxing). Perhaps once you received the email you went quietly to your bedroom, logged into your applicant account, and discreetly read those words that would determine your future membership with the American elite – my reaction was closer to the latter. I waited five hours after it was released before reading my decision, because every college letter I’d leapt on had been a rejection. Each one I’d opened nonchalantly had been an acceptance. The college gods dictated my actions, and my compliance was rewarded.
Such positive reinforcement of sign-seeking behavior leads most admits to carry on the practice during their college years, and slowly but surely, superstition has become embedded in Harvard student life. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the tradition currently on every freshman and bitter sophomore’s mind: River Run. A sordid affair, in my opinion, on account of my pessimistic background. My particular brand of superstition leans towards the tell-the-universe-the-opposite-of-what-you-really-want-because-it’s-out-to-get-you type of thinking. Visiting every single river house in one night and drowning in alcohol seems so totally earnest and desperate that to do so, in my view, will condemn you to Currier. But others, obviously, disagree.
As a freshman myself, I couldn’t give one flying ferret what house I end up in as long as it isn’t Lowell. An unfortunate experience in that dratted house’s bathroom soiled the entire place for me forever. Therefore, despite my largely indifferent attitude, I will have to perform my own preventative ritual, lest I be stormed by a bunch of upperclassmen with an aversion to flushing the toilet.
But no amount of goat’s blood will guarantee my sanitary safety — I will have to offer the housing gods something that matters more to me than anything else. What is closer to a freshman’s heart than the cozy red H-shield sweatshirt given to each Harvard student, that heavy-blend “One Crimson” pullover sported by twenty different people in the Yard at any given moment? Nothing, that’s what.
The week of Housing Day, rather than attend class, I will spend my time slowly unraveling the thread of my “One Crimson” sweatshirt inch by precious inch. Out of that thread I will painstakingly knit a beautiful crimson banner emblazoned with a white capital “L.” This banner will cover all bases. To the malicious housing god, the “L” represents a wish to be assigned to Lowell, and they will do their darndest to keep that from happening. To the benevolent housing god, the “L” represents Leverett, a perfectly respectable house I would be happy to be placed in. And to the inattentive or apathetic housing god, the “L” is simply my last initial, a demonstration of typical human narcissism.
After reading my personal strategy to assuage my Housing Day fears, the question you should be asking yourself is: what will you do to appease the housing gods? Will you too take your destiny by its hand-knit horns? Will you sacrifice your luscious locks for a first-class ticket to Dunster-town? Will you devote yourself to charity and scrounge up enough good karma to send your blocking group to Kirkland? Or, like many of your ill-fated predecessors, will you give yourself a late-night kidney workout and a hangover to secure your Cabot assignment?