A spring term reflection on fall term blues.
My sophomore slump can be characterized by getting my heart broken multiple times: usually on Thursday nights before my CS50 p-sets were due, occasionally when I missed a deadline for an internship I would have loved, and once or twice by a Junior living in Kirkland. The last one was the real kicker and somehow hurt a lot more than when my TF advised me to switch final paper topics in the last round of edits. On the bright side, I can now give ample advice on how to look cute while having your ass handed to you, and that is a highly valued but underappreciated skill!
Sophomore Slump is one of the most challenging experiences that college students (specifically Harvard ones) are told to expect. Not only do your classes step up their game out of nowhere but you are also suddenly thrown into House Life and expected to have your future figured out by now. It starts to feel like you aren’t allowed to have real world problems at home or with friends. Essentially, anything that isn’t related to the courses you take that semester start to feel like unnecessary distractions. A lot happened to me during my sophomore fall, all of which made dating a mess: I came out as bisexual, a friend I grew up with passed away, my mom moved from the house I grew up in, and I struggled to mentor high school students who were applying to colleges when I was the epitome of a broke, stressed-out college student. While there may have been more convenient times for me to experience my first adult heartbreak, I’m still glad it happened.
When I first talked to Kirkland, it was the beginning of sophomore fall before classes really sucker punched me. I was still excited about being single and not being tied down, but he was an engineer and probably the weirdest guy I have ever liked. On our first date, I was 15 minutes late to meet him because I had struggled with the consequences of really liking someone for so long that I missed the shuttle. Even though he was about to leave since he assumed I stood him up, it turned out to be one of the most fun and sweet dates I have been on. We went on a few more dates in the next week but when midterms hit, I realized how unrealistic it was for me to think I had any room in my schedule for another time commitment.
As Harvard students, we believe busier is better. It makes sense that we gravitate towards people we’ll see more often or whose paths cross ours naturally. That sounds great until someone you’ve made out with sits a row in front of you in half the classes you shop, in which case it goes from convenient to irritating really fast. Granted, the first time that I was interested in Kirkland I had zero classes or events with him. Then I found out taking more mechanical engineering classes relieves me of ever suffering through Organic Chemistry, which is still far worse than running into Kirkland MWF at 10 am (plus sections and office hours multiple hours a week). Sharing a 14-hour-a-week course load with someone you spent a fraction of that time with while seeing him last semester…is a lot.
While I joke that my tryst with the boy in Kirkland was a long-distance relationship ordeal, in many ways it truly felt so. When you plan your life around dining hall hours, lectures, office hours, and review sessions, time is not aplenty. I only saw Kirkland on weekends or after getting utterly wrecked by midterms. I personally enjoyed having time to myself but knew I could talk to him whenever I wanted and looked forward to when I saw him. Sadly, communication eventually disintegrated into the chaotic struggle that was my schedule. It has become a running joke amongst my friends that I only date boys with communication issues, and Harvard has been perfect for finding them.
Dating someone who goes to Harvard in general is difficult; everyone is busy and everyone is sure they are somehow busier than the next person. When I tell people I’m an engineer, I’m met with their sympathy over how packed my schedule will be and the intensity of my classes. Now, try dating an engineer who continually tries explaining how difficult it is to be an engineer to you. I can even admit that I considered sending Kirkland a Doodle poll to see when I could explain why things weren’t really working out. The strain of never seeing someone while talking decreases as well was a real problem. I’ll also admit that I might have purposely planned dates when it was convenient for me to meet after office hours. Of course I wanted to be cute and watch the Blood Moon eclipse, but it also just happened to conveniently begin to rise right when I planned to leave the Math Question Center.
Dating in college sounds fun when you think about having someone to confide in and who is always excited to buy you food. It is however, important to invest in friendships first and foremost. This was a clichéd piece of advice I learned a little late. The people who stick by you through the sophomore slump are the ones you can count on for anything. Those friends are the ones who ate a lot of Domino’s pizza and took more shots than needed to fill the Back Bay with me when things with Kirkland fell through. The people who help you get through that difficult time in your life are the ones you can count on for anything. I learned that even someone who seemed to value and understand me might not be one of those people. Harvard has a diverse student body, and we all learn from one another. It’s not likely that everyone will be able to empathize with your experiences and it takes us time to learn how to do so.
I understand that a trying semester at Harvard is nowhere near the end of the world. I also understand that reaching the goals of padded resumes and success in extracurriculars often comes at the expense of more human commitments. Even so, this Valentine’s Day, I will be appreciating the things I learned fall term and appreciating the people who taught me those lessons. I hope my peers have the chance to do the same.
Hunter Richards ’18 (firstname.lastname@example.org) would like to note that if they can’t handle you during your sophomore slump, they don’t deserve your highlight reel.