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Remember September when we were all bright-eyed and filled with the kind of enthusiasm that had us promising to do all of our General Education readings and actually show up to section? Yeah, me neither. Still, there was definitely a passion at the start of the semester. But sometime between midterms and group projects, that passion packed up and took a sabbatical, leaving us in a state lovingly referred to as “burnout.”
Now, as Cambridge winds start to feel like personal attacks and the sun decides to clock out by 5 p.m., it’s not just the end-of-semester fatigue that we have to face — it’s seasonal gloom too.
We’ve reached the time of the year when our existence feels reduced to a string of deadlines, and we’re left pining for a sliver of sunlight. It doesn’t help that the trees, once lush, stand stripped of their grandeur, while the grass crunches underfoot. In this stark landscape, where campus green spaces seem just as drained as us, motivation can feel as scarce as the daylight.
But there’s a spot on campus that might just be the antidote to the academic and meteorological blues we’re facing.
In the heart of the Harvard Business School, where future leaders promise to revolutionize how we hoard digital collectibles or optimize our nap schedules, you’ll find a space that’s surprisingly fishy — quite literally. The MBA Class of 1959 Chapel, a concrete and copper marvel, houses an unexpected burst of life within its walls: a koi fish garden.
The garden greets you with a sensory symphony: the vivid colors of lush foliage, the playful dance of light through the grand pyramidal windows, and the gentle cadence of water cascading into the koi pond. It’s a space where the garden’s extroversion and the chapel’s introspection harmonize. The air is alive with the subtle hum of nature, yet the serenity is profound. There’s a palpable warmth even on winter’s coldest days, afforded by the light that bathes the indoor garden. The koi, with their graceful movements, add a dynamic layer to this stillness, embodying a living art form that captivates and calms. They glide beneath the water’s surface, oblivious to the New England chill just beyond the glass; their vibrant fiery red and deep orange hues are a stark contrast to the simplicity of the chapel’s concrete walls.
Colorful koi swim in the pond within Harvard Business School’s MBA Class of 1959 Chapel.
As we near the home stretch of the semester, where final exams are just on the horizon, it’s easy to feel the weight of burnout. While I would usually suggest taking a step back when it all gets too much, there’s something about the koi fish in this pond that’s given me a different kind of pause.
Koi are known for swimming against the current. These fish don’t just push through the water because they have to; they make it look easy, even when it’s anything but. They do so with a certain elegance, a reminder that persistence does not require sacrificing grace. In Japanese culture, the koi’s ability to swim against its current is a symbol of tenacity and perseverance.
Over the course of this column, I have preached the gospel of a well-timed pause, the sacred act of stepping back to recharge in the face of relentless demands. But as I watch these koi, I am reminded that there is also pride to be taken in our ability to keep moving forward, even when the waters are rough. Especially now, in the throes of burnout or as the chill of seasonal depression creeps up, watching these koi reminds me there is a quiet dignity in perseverance.
The MBA Class of 1959 Chapel’s koi pond is the perfect place to take a moment to appreciate our own resilience. We’re here, we’re doing it, and there’s something to be said for that. The koi, with their colorful scales and steady strokes, remind us that there’s grace in the “grind,” even when we’re feeling the pressure.
While the campus greens may have turned to grays, inside the MBA Class of 1959 Chapel, the koi keep swimming — and perhaps, with a splash of their defiant color and calm, we can too.
Aneesh C. Muppidi ’25 is a Computer Science and Neuroscience concentrator in Lowell House. His column, “Leafing By,” runs biweekly on Thursdays.
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