There is a palpable sense of urgency that comes with senior year of college. Obviously part of this is job prospect-induced, the looming fear of a lack of income causing some of us to march like name-tagged soldiers in business casual to recruiting meetings (or just to spend countless hours scrolling through the Internet's Labyrinth in hopes that our future career will jump out at us in all of its pixilated glory). I was abroad last semester, but even if I had been at Harvard the daunting subject of post-grad plans would have been exhausting.
One might think that this would be a reason to become more closed off or self-absorbed, the energy required for socializing having been sucked out of us with our appetite for cold pizza. It is true that I have a lot less patience for high-heeled frat parties; I value my shoes too much to keep voluntarily wading through beer. Yet I find that, contrary to what the trending hashtag #NoNewFriends implies, this recent impatience for superficiality instead translates to our interactions being genuine right off the bat. We have too little time left to let petty insecurities and preconceived notions stop us from listening to people.
Of course, acknowledging college's expiration date also leads us to hungrily lap up the other opportunities we have here. We are suddenly contemplating new extracurricular activities and thinking very carefully about our academic choices, filling our elective spaces with art history and computer science classes because we relish the intellectual engagement. We realize all of the nooks and crannies of campus we haven't explored yet, all of the weekend trips we have yet to take, all of the bucket list items we haven't crossed off. But perhaps most important of these possibilities, we realize all of the friends we don't know.
"I think it's really cool that we've grown apart in the same direction," a friend said to me recently. We had been tight freshman year, but due to a number of factors we hadn't kept in very close touch since then. She was abroad junior fall, I was abroad this spring--our paths hadn't intersected much. Yet this fall we kept bumping into each other and finally set up a time to have lunch and talk about some of what we'd missed of each other's lives. To my happy surprise, the time apart had allowed us to amass an array of experiences that complemented each other well, her studies in India illuminating some of the post-colonial dynamics I had witnessed in South America. It wasn't as though nothing had changed--certainly much had since the wide-eyed freshman days -- but rather that we had both come into our own and felt ready to reconnect.
Amazingly enough, I have found this sort of rekindling to be characteristic of what I had expected to be a year primarily focused on already strong friendships (in addition to figuring out the rest of our lives). Friends with whom I hadn't shared more than a red-cup-infused conversation since freshman year have suddenly begun to crop up in places outside of my Facebook newsfeed. I've started answering people honestly when asked, "How are you?" (which fluctuates between "really happy" and grumbling half-jokingly about how the inundation of email at this place is giving me an ulcer). I'm reminding myself that no, not everyone in the Class of 2015 knows each other, and introductions are still imperative senior year.
So while I am wary of overwhelming myself (and also sounding like a hypocrite), aware of the fact that one needs time to process experiences in order to appreciate them, I have tried to be open to new connections this semester. The opportunity to be surrounded by thousands of brilliant minds that understand what it is like to live in this crazy pressure cooker of college is one I will not let slip past me. I will not let myself regret not talking to that friend-of-a-friend who always seemed so nice simply because I felt I had met my friend quota. This has nothing to do with social networking and everything to do with educational priorities.
I have always said that the best part about Harvard is the people, which is truer now more than ever. Sure, we are a bit more jaded than we were as freshmen and there are surely friendships that have not lasted, but between all of the résumé padding and beer pong that could otherwise culminate in a pretty bland college experience are the connections we form. While my brain may be stimulated by material found on a dusty library shelf, my person is shaped more by the conversations I have had in dining halls, dorm rooms, and foreign countries. The lives of our peers are a concrete source of inspiration that will stay with us even when memories of Marx and math equations have faded.