Five Reflections of a Harvard Junior

On anarchy, nirvana, truffle fries, wanderlust, & unicorns.

“I dream too much, and I don’t write enough, and I’m trying to find God everywhere.” –Anis Mojgani

1. Goals

Junior fall has allowed me to dream again, perhaps at the expense of more concrete accomplishments. I’ve come to realize that you can either transmit or you can receive, but you can’t do both at the same time.

In stark contrast to scheduling every second of my life, I’ve finally scaled back my tendency to overcommit. Instead I’ve reintroduced forgotten pleasures — like reading for fun, napping, and watching arthouse psychological thrillers when I’m feeling avant-garde.

Cue total anarchy, right? But actually, it’s been really nice.

I needed the time and space to decompress. I’ve learned that being kind to myself is a lifelong process, one that I’m continually refining. Spending one semester collecting my thoughts and figuring out what I want in life has been far more valuable than spending a fifth consecutive semester spreading myself thin among five different clubs.

Although I haven’t written down my New Year’s resolutions yet, I’m really looking forward to 2017. The natural balance of the universe needs to be restored, and this year I have a feeling that the stars will realign.

2. Old friends

A huge shout-out to Claudia and Sam for keeping me sane this semester. Whether or not you’re reading this, both of you are rock stars.

Same to Ian, Jazmine, Hope, Chelsea, Ethan, Vanessa, Ryan, Darius, Francesca, Kasandra, Chase, Promit, Federico, and everyone else that I love / text / have seen with some consistency throughout all the tiny triumphs, trials, and tribulations of junior fall.

My happiest moments this semester were never spent alone, and I have you guys to thank for that.

Some highlights include:

  • Twirling around Haunted Hall in Annenberg on Halloween with Harley Quinn and Beyoncé
  • Sharing a plate of delicious homemade Spanish frittatas (made with lots of love) at 3 AM in Adams dining hall
  • Embarking on an all-night, self-guided walking tour across Boston to seek out cheap thrills
  • Cutting the line to kill VR zombies at Harvard Business School via Oculus Rift (making a ton of enemies in the process, but totally #worthit)
  • Belting the lyrics to “Closer” at max lung capacity while Halsey performed live at the Forbes music festival
  • Shopping for perfumes on Newbury Street, only to discover the most exquisite olfactory facsimile of red roses known to mankind
  • Enjoying the schmanciest late-night meal (cocktails, smothered shrimp, bone marrow hors d’oeuvres & the best damn truffle fries in the entire world) at an underground speakeasy in Manhattan
  • Frequenting all-night raves at the MFA, gallivanting dangerously between indie dance mobs and million dollar Warhol prints
  • Deciding that a freezing spontaneous photoshoot on a rooftop next to the Empire State building sounded like great fun, despite only wearing a thin white silk blouse
  • Playing the violin in Harvard Square, only to get chased out of the public commons by a homeless person for infringing on his territory

…and other PG-13 adventures.

Because between endless bouts of sleepless essay-writing and marathon-emailing in Lamont café, it’s the little things in life that keep me optimistic.

3. New friends

He was sitting next to me at the airport. He worked in finance, he said.

Have you sold your soul yet? I joked.

I don’t know, he mused. Nobody has offered to buy it yet.

How much would it be worth, hypothetically?

He locked eyes with me and smirked. How much money do you have?

This semester, purely by chance, I’ve met and befriended a number of interesting people — including a soft-spoken venture capitalist at the Forbes Under 30 Summit, a wandering nomad-scholar from Stanford, a tech enthusiast from Harvard Business School, a German ex-McKinsey alum with a very dry sense of humor, an eccentric ex-Googler working at a Chinese startup, a JD/MBA thought leader in the AV space, and an arrogant Parisian unicorn with an inexplicable fondness for vapes.

Because chance interactions are often difficult to replicate, I’ve come to view a lot of my relationships as transitory, but impactful — short bursts of light against an off-white backdrop, developing into a snapshot memory that fades with time, leaving behind a trail of colorful afterimages until the next impression.

Three takeaways:

  • All relationships fundamentally require mutual respect — without it, all bets are off.
  • People will make time for you if they really want to see you, if they’re willing to help you out, or if you’re offering them some sort of value.
  • When you exchange regular interactions for exceptional conversations, you give up predictability in exchange for super vivid memories. The minute you decide to have some fun with it, the possibilities never end ;)

4. Music

Here’s something to think about: If your musical tastes were a blueprint for your preferred state of being, what would nirvana look like for you?

Based on my Spotify playlists, I’d be chilling in a lounge-cum-discothèque, replete with all the usual trimmings: pulsating strobe lights, heartbreak, throbbing subwoofers, endless yearning, overpriced Moët, memory obliteration, and a svelte crowd of 20-somethings draped in surrealism and vanilla smoke.

Thanks to the magic of technology, it’s now possible to preserve this ambience anywhere with headphones and the click of a button. So unless I hear a well-executed-but-not-overdone EDM melody with 4/4 time signature, 120-BPM, and crooning vocal reverbs, I find it pretty hard to concentrate.

Honestly, I can’t imagine this semester without music. The number of times I’ve listened to Drowning in Champagne by Yellow Claw, or the Dillon Francis remix of The Right Song, or the Hex Cougar remix of Sia’s Cheap Thrills — (which sounded even better live, because seeing Sia perform in Boston was an absolute privilege) — can hardly be quantified.

I’ve also been known to fiddle around with violin covers at 1 AM in the morning, much to the consternation of the people on the floor above me, who have occasionally shouted me down through Mather’s decidedly-not-soundproof concrete walls.

But you know what? For four months I had music and apologized to no one.

If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

5. Cambridge U

I remember seeing the markets crash after Brexit, watching stocks tumble down like that one London bridge song by Fergie, and writing (without a single trace of irony, not one) about what a bargain British yachts were on the international market.

Although I’m still waiting for my crumpled dollar bills to stretch into crisp 55-foot yachts, I am beyond excited to study abroad at the University of Cambridge in the spring.

I’ve always believed in the importance of cultivating a global worldview. Our world is so interconnected now that it’s becoming a categorical imperative. Education in the 21st century is about more than how well you can write an essay, or how competently you can solve a problem set — it’s about how well you can empathize with other people and other cultures, no matter how different they are from your own.

This will be my third time studying abroad, after Fudan in 2012 and IULM in 2015. Beyond the appeal of globe-trotting alone, there’s something addicting about living outside your bubble, if only for a short amount of time. It rewires your brain to think less provincially. It inspires you to dream bigger. It teaches you how to be versatile, to adapt to foreign situations, to think on your feet, and to solve problems you’ve never encountered before. All of which, I think, are valuable life skills.

More than anything, I’m hoping that a semester in England will instill in me some classic English sensibilities. Like the ability to spell words with extra letters (lettours). Or an insatiable appetite for crumpets with tea (delicious). Or even a lasting appreciation for British humor (best served dry, with a side of pretentious intellectualism).

Yes, I think the British and I will get along.

Cheers to a new year, and God save the Queen.

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