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“I feel what only I can feel/and if that don’t appeal to you let me know, and I’ll go, /cuz I flow better when my colors show.”
-Avril Lavigne, 2002
A few weekends ago, I was hanging out with my best friends on campus. One of them posed a question to the group: “What was the hardest thing for you all growing up?” The resulting conversation was important. After all, it isn’t often that we really talk about our pasts here.
Elementary school was pretending to be international spies, smiling with orange wedges between my teeth at soccer games, and lying in my bed and listening to the Avril Lavigne CD I stole from my sister.
At times, that self is still my favorite kind of me. I said my prayers for world peace every night. I knew that I wanted to be a beret-wearing artist in Paris when I grew up. The Avril Lavigne lyric, “I’m not the milk and cheerios in your spoon,” totally and completely resonated with me. (Sidenote: I now have no idea what Avril’s talking about there)
I often feel like I’ve declined since then, just like the quality of Avril Lavigne’s music. Perhaps the perfect illustration is a line from a song off of her latest album: “It’s gonna be a bitchin’ summer/We’ll be livin’ fast, kickin’ ass together.” I’m sorry, Avril, but what happened to your anthem of individuality, “Nobody’s Fool,” or your ever-real, ever-relevant “Complicated”?
We love to indulge ourselves a look into our pasts. Everybody’s game for a good #tbt, especially if it’s a childhood photo where you’re doing something dysfunctional and Fisher Price is involved. We even like to make current events look old–any college photo album from a disposable camera is automatically much cooler than my album of iOS uploads. Reminiscing makes us happy. A 2008 Psychological Science study asserts that nostalgia helps to increase our perceptions of social support. And in college, our need for social support seems to be at an all-time high.
Most of us lived about eighteen years away from Harvard before we arrived on this campus. But, once we get here, Harvard becomes a huge part of our lives. Our identities here are almost completely defined by the ways in which we spend our time in Cambridge.
At school, I feel as if I’m constantly losing parts of the person I was for those eighteen years before I came here. We haven’t known each other since the beginning. We might know about each others’ high school friends and sports teams, but I can’t say that I know much about the elementary school days of even my closest friends.
Sometimes, I long for the time when I didn’t have to explain who I was to anyone. When I am at school, I miss the friends from my hometown who remember the three-year period of my life when I was routinely mistaken for a boy. I miss the time when most of my friends knew what my parents looked like and didn’t ask me, “So, what are you?” We post #tbts to affirm the continuity of our identity from childhood until now. That little kid is still a part of who I am, even though no one at Harvard knew me at the beginning of my (ongoing) obsession with Avril’s debut album.
The process of conveying one’s history to someone else is special–it allows us to reaffirm the important moments from the past that make us who we are, and it gives us the chance to convey an identity deeper than our Harvard selves.
Let’s investigate beyond the photos we post on Instagram. Maybe it will help us understand each other a little better. Plus, it’s always nice to remind myself of the days when the combination of midterms and constant access to Marshmallow Mateys was still foreign to me.
Jennifer A. Gathright ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, is an economics concentrator in Lowell House. Her column appears on alternate Tuesdays.
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