I’m taking time off! I’m leaving campus in a week with plans to be back in Spring 2017 as a second-semester Junior. Initially, I’m going home to Buena Vista, CO, but I don’t have any plans after that. Hit me up if you have any fun ideas for my next 9 months!
While this doesn’t need any more explanation, I’m going to offer one up. Harvard students are good at a lot of things, but answering “How are you?” honestly is not one of them. We are so good at talking about how busy we are or how badly we think we did on a midterm, but when it comes to the big questions— Happiness, contentment, body image… We go silent. So here’s my best answer.
In September 2011, I wrote a painfully honest introductory letter to my junior year English teacher, Mr. Potts, entitled “Best or Bust.” The letter was a series of confessions about what motivates me as a student, including lines like “Confession: I am a hardcore teacher’s pet,” “Confession: I cannot stand being average,” “Confession: I am a disorganized control freak,” and “Confession: I attribute my successes to my natural ability and my failures to my work ethic.” Though I spun the hyperbolized confessions into a narrative about my genuine adoration of academia and English, the essay was fraught with some scary warning signs. I wrote that “I am determined to scribble an imperfect page in history,” but clearly wasn’t anticipating imperfection.
Overconfident academic curiosity gave me a Harvard acceptance (and a Harvard acceptance gave me Canaday A Mario Kart, trips to the polo barn, Aix-en-Provence, Social Studies 10, Cabot Stein Clubs, the English department, way too much rowing knowledge, my P* family…), but it also set me up for failure. When I wrote this essay as a junior in high school, I didn’t realize that comparative self-evaluation would lead me to literal failure, panic attacks, and an eating disorder. As confidence and resilience slipped away each semester, I finally realized that I needed to step away.
The essay ends with resounding optimism: “I will crack the binding of this class and open up to the beautiful promise of an empty Page One and start writing.” This time off is just another Page One—a gorgeous opportunity to examine and refine my confessions and motivations while exploring whatever it turns out that I explore.
A last note: In times of difficulty, talk about things and surround yourself with people who will engage in the conversation. Thanks to Bonfig, Rebecca, Rachel, Langston, Matthew, Aemilia, my family, and many others for being my hand-holders this semester.