The Dream School

You used to dream vividly. Now you never sleep.

You used to dream vividly. Now you never sleep.

Every morning your waking begins in stages. Your iPhone alarm clock is set to ring every 10 minutes, starting at 7:50 AM and chirping incessantly until you finally wake up. After strident electronic beeps penetrate your brainwaves for hours on end, you finally accumulate enough internal motivation (read: guilt) to open your eyes.

The morning is unforgiving, but familiar enough. You crawl out of your warm covers to face the cold, bright world, throw on enough clothes to preserve what body heat you have left, finish up any last-minute homework, and rush off to arrive exactly 7 minutes late to your 10:00 AM class. Perfecting the art of arriving On Harvard Time is a point of pride for you, and you half-consider listing it as a skill on your résumé.

At 10:37 AM you find yourself staring blearily into a lighted screen, dutifully clicking away at your laptop. The lecture is fast-paced, and you try your best to keep up. On both sides of you, your classmates are either scrolling through Facebook, group texting their friends, or attempting to check their ever-flooded inbox of emails. Keeping up — both academically and socially — is a common theme around these parts.

The lecture ends. You make a quick mental note of tonight’s assignments before trekking to your next course. Placing one foot in front of the other, you pass an endless array of red brick buildings, search for the right building/floor/classroom, and arrive to class rosy-cheeked and slightly out of breath. Instantly you are presented with another 53-minute flood of information. It is, in short, your education — served one day at a time. You try to digest it as best as you can.

Soon it’s time for lunch. You walk into Annenberg and hand your ID over to the kind-eyed HUDS worker, who swipes you into the dining hall. Moving through the line, you grab a bit of everything, fill up a plastic cup with a favorite drink, and venture out to find a familiar face to sit with. You share a meal with friends that you only see in passing, promising to catch up at some unspecified point in the future.

Then you dash off to section, ice cream cone in hand.

When classes finally end for the day, you experience a palpable rush of relief. That empty block in your schedule is a hard-earned luxury, and for a moment, you allow yourself to unwind. Your pace slows. Your mind roams. And, consciously or not, you begin to seek out the beauty in your surroundings.

You notice how the colors of autumn caress your eyes, how the wind brushes against your cheek like the lingering touch of a lover. You feel the fleeting glances of passing strangers, the streaks of warm sunlight filtering through the leaves, the hard uneven cobblestone beneath your L.L. Beans. You’re reminded that there’s more to life than your impending pset deadlines. You’re grateful for the reminder.

Because your first extracurricular starts soon, you decide to cram in a bit of studying while you still have time. You nestle against an out-of-way windowsill, earbuds in, textbook in hand. Out in the yard you see two squirrels chasing each other, chittering away in their squirrelly happiness. Wistfully, you lean against the glass. You might not have a playful relationship, but you’ll always have your readings on the democratization theories of the late 20th century. Turning up the volume on your favorite EDM playlist, you engross yourself in work until it’s time to go.

Near the end of your meeting/rehearsal/practice, you realize that you need to eat again. You’re not necessarily hungry, but you know you’ll need the calories when you’re up late studying tonight. So, you text a friend to meet up for dinner, scoop some HUDS nosh onto a plate, and add a bowl of salad for good measure. You talk about life over spinach and overcooked swai, loving the fact that in Annenberg you can fulfill both your calorie and socialization quotas at once. You stay to mingle for half an hour longer than you meant to before heading to your second extracurricular of the day.

You spend your nights in Lamont, a 24-hour library layered with oak paneling and quiet desperation. You keep coming back night after night because you’re no longer able to work productively in your dorm without falling asleep. After page X of your required reading you convince yourself that another latte-expresso-chino from the café would better help you synthesize abstract theories. You sip the soft foam of your caffeinated drink, flip another page, and try to decide how to allocate your remaining energy for the rest of the night.

By some miracle you leave Lamont at around 4 AM in the morning; by another, you find your way back to your dorm. Once your head hits a pillow, it takes 60 short seconds for you to drift away. You know this well. So you don’t dare lie down until you set 15 alarms on your iPhone, making damn well sure that all manner of beeps and rings and high-pitched noises will revive you in the morning.

Right before you close your eyes, you realize why you’ve stopped dreaming.

Perhaps it’s because in high school, you always viewed college as the end goal in life. Harvard was the dream for so long that it feels surreal to actually be living it. You’ve gotten what you wanted—brought your goals into fruition—adjusted so well that this has become your new reality.

Now you’re here. And you’ve finally woken up.