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Every year, like a distorted New Year’s resolution with none of the cake or confetti, I compare myself to a dreamscape version of myself. Dream Christina has a nice singing voice and kind eyes. Dream Christina knows how to keep a conversation going. They are the kind of cool that makes people want to stop them on the street and ask where they got their fit.
In reality, I have an okay singing voice, okay eyes, an okay ability at facilitating conversation, an okay sense of style. In reality, I have no fewer than six different documents listing life goals, action items for the semester, bucket lists, skills to learn, things about myself to fix, and ambitions so deep they’re almost shameful.
I want to change. I want to grow and blossom and flower. I want to be a better person, whatever that means to me at the moment.
Don’t we all? The drive for self-improvement is embedded within Harvard’s culture. We are overachievers always striving for perfection. We believe we are capable of great things, as long as we put in the work. I watch my friends and peers reshape themselves into the people they want to be. They Pavlov themselves into going to office hours. They print out affirmations to stick above their beds. I have joint semesterly goal lists with some of these people, for accountability.
So we are budding and changing altogether. But we treat self-improvement as if we are reforming ourselves, like a collapsed piece of pottery that must be thrown into an amorphous lump of clay before it can be turned into something beautiful again. We say things like, “God, I can’t believe I was ever that awkward” or “I used to be so stupid.” We think we need to be cruel to our past selves, lest we slip back into their comfortable skins. There’s a disconnect between us now — well-adjusted and self-assured — and us then — bumbling, terrified, anxious.
In astrology — yes, that astrology — there is no distinction between now and then. You, in the astrological sense, are three signs nested like Matryoshka dolls: Moon, Sun, Rising.
Your Moon is your innermost emotional self. It’s the bumbling, terrified, anxious child you try so hard to hide. Other people glimpsing your Moon is such a mortifying ordeal. You’d rather everyone see your Rising: the sign on the horizon at your birth, how you appear to strangers, the most polished version of you.
Your Sun, then, is the sign caught between these extremes of the intimately personal and the affably perceptible. It’s the tension between the inherent Moon of you and the intended Rising of you. The Sun sign is the only sign that’s really embedded within our cultural zeitgeist (it’s the one people mean when they ask, “What’s your sign?”), and for good reason — it’s the essence of you, at the center of the tug-of-war that constitutes your identity.
As the Sun, you are not one person trying to be another person, unlike how we think of self-improvement at Harvard. That other, better person, the Rising whom you so desperately want to be, is already inside of you, coexisting with the person you are now: the Moon whom you so desperately hate. You are not multiple disjointed people, each at discrete steps of growth; you are a singular eternal self continually striving, through layers of Moon, Sun, and Rising. You can split yourself into pieces to represent each period of your life, but it’s always just you.
Understanding yourself and your self-improvement journey as astrology does help you approach self-improvement with kindness, instead of harsh criticism and reproach of the past. Yes, you were once more awkward or less smart, your Moon overdeveloped and crowding out any sight of a Rising. But that was still you, and there’s nothing wrong with how you used to be. You could not be who you are now without who you used to be. You cannot be who you want to be in the future without who you are now. Your Moon, Sun, and Rising all build on each other.
At every stage of your life, you are exactly as you are supposed to be, written in the stars. And yet, in all our charts, there’s room for growth mapped out. The snapshot of the sky when you were born contains fixed, fated stars, and also swathes of empty space. Your past is fixed in the Moon; your striving in the Sun; your dreams in the Rising peeking over the horizon. But the path of self-improvement between these snapshots of you is loose with stardust. You can choose, mapping out your own constellations leapfrogging through the sky. Sun, Moon, Rising, sky of stars and void. It’s all you, and all yours for the taking.
Christina M. Xiao ’24, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Eliot House. Their column "Star Signs" appears on alternate Mondays.
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