Monday, May 9, 2011

Harvard: The Bad.

I'm in a good mood, but I'm good at seeing bad things.

The Bad
- The people. It can be surprisingly difficult, especially for introverts, to make connections here. There is some level of intimidation going on starting freshman year. Almost all of us are incredibly Type A, either due to being overachieving "big fish in little ponds", or used to being a fish in a big pond, competitive high school who had to stand out to get anywhere special. A lot of us are pushed to succeed by external factors like family and social expectations, desires to work and make money and be whatever form of successful we find appealing. It can be hard to be friends with people who are figuring out how to stand above you internally. It can be hard to look outside yourself when you're consumed with insecurity and an urge to be the best, for yourself and for everyone. And we can't all be the best pre-meds on the planet.

- The opportunities. This is what we'd call a #firstworldproblem these days. Actually, pretty much everything on this list is a #firstworldproblem. The tough thing about having so many crazy amazing, appealing, unique opportunities is the instant madness of "What the hell do I choose? How do I maximize my enrichment?" and shit like that. Basically, if you're sane and a Type A, as established, you want to do...ALL OF THE THINGS. And there are so many things. You want to do all the dance groups, all the political groups, all the cultural and academic and social THINGS. But you can't or you'll go insane. I love the people that do but it isn't easy and it often hurts them or the people who want a slice of their time. And it's hard, but not impossible, to just not be aware of what and how is available - I know I was. I tried to be careful choosing the opportunities I wanted, was very successful sometimes and very not other times. I think this is the standard experience here.

- The support. This is gonna be tricky. Once again, I can say it's a matter of too many options, or not knowing the options. But this isn't quite applicable here. The matter of coddling is more legitimate, given the fact that the Harvard Bubble is still a Bubble and acts as a surrogate parent often. To a great extent, Harvard students don't really know how to take care of themselves or live on their own. Moreso, I can focus on the bad support that isn't quite bad enough to be Ugly. They can be overwhelmed with all the other things they're doing that they value more. They can push too hard, be too callous, cut out emotion in favor of expedience and rationality. This can be perfect, but rarely is, especially when a real emotional crisis is at hand. This has ruined some people's experiences here.

- The flexibility. I don't really know what to add that isn't already in the other Bad categories. Too many choices can be an unexpected burden. It's not always easy to know what's out there and how to get it. For a lot of people, it doesn't exist out of choice or compulsion. Especially for those of us who are pre-meds, double majors, people who don't know what they really want to do for perfectly legitimate reasons listed above, there's little choice for electives or actual intellectual flexibility. This was somewhat true for me when I was thoroughly pre-med and I have some regrets about that. For others it's disablingly worse.

So there we go. This should definitely affect someone's estimation of Harvard, or their considerations before entering. I wish I had known some of it earlier, thought some of them would be worse than they were, and predicted/panicked about some of it. It'll get worse with The Ugly, even though it's challenging for me to see it because I am the Queen of gratitude and privilege-guilt.

For the sake of continuity...FUUUUU

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