Diego, not David, part II
Last semester I took three really great classes and another class that I wish I had devoted more time. Though it was a good class, I did not really take advantage of the material taught. One class focused on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and the debates that took place regarding evolution before and after The Origin of Species. I had a great Teaching Fellow who made the already interesting topic and course that much better. There was a lot of writing for that class but it allowed me to get back into the groove of writing papers quickly and engaging with texts. We had a number of great guest lecturers, chief among them a professor of biology who was very animated in his lecture and engaged students with questions. I wish I had been able to devote more time for my English class; I really liked the books that were on the syllabus and the topics, but I could not make more time in my schedule to read every book in the course and did enjoy it as much as I anticipated.
I took a course on the state of the City of Boston that sought to explain to students what took place in the region in the past forty years and why Boston is today the vibrant city for young people. Many power players and civic leaders were lecturers in the course and presented their point of view on the city. When I first came to Harvard I knew I wanted to get to know and engage with Boston and Cambridge because I did not want to say I merely came to school in Cambridge and traveled between Logan International Airport, Boston Common, Kendall and Harvard Squares.
As part of the course, I visited different neighborhoods of Boston and wrote short memos describing what I saw. I explored parts of the city I liked, like East Boston, and parts I had never seen, such as Roxbury and Allston. My TF actually lives in Boston and it was clear when he spoke that he loved the city and the material of the course. I love it here, I really do. I want to live in Boston after graduation, hopefully for a number of years, and work in transportation-related fields. I want to eventually settle back in Los Angeles, but for now, I want to be in Boston. New York City will do, too.
My favorite class of the semester was a small seminar class I took. The material was interesting but what made it more interesting was dealing with my professor. She is a magnificent professor and person. While I cannot go deeper into our conversations, just know that she helped me make it through the first semester back.
* * *
I met someone important this past semester. We shared a class and spoke to each other sometimes in class, but we primarily spoke outside of class. I ran into her on a Friday night after the first class together and we spoke for a bit. As the semester progressed, we got together and talked a lot, whether about class, our selves, our lives, or nothing important, but we talked. We had dinner together a few times and each time was better than the previous meeting. She means a lot to me.
* * *
This year, the Harvard-Yale game was in Boston and I got to see alumni I had not seen for some time. While it was nice to see them again, the whole weekend was covered by a patina of loneliness because there wasn’t a group with which I could spend time with at the Game or any of the activities before the Game. After a quarter of play I left the Game and went to my dorm to do some reading. It was unbearable to be in the crowd, alone (echoing the name of this blog). I so sorely wanted to call Her and spill my guts to Her, but at that point I was unsure if I was overstepping my bounds. November was a pretty bad month for me in terms of conflicting emotions.
Come Thanksgiving I attended a dinner put together by members of one of my extracurricular activities. It’s become tradition to put this together because most of us are students from west of the Mississippi who can’t afford to go back home and would otherwise spend Thanksgiving alone. Last year about twelve of us got together and had our dinner at an alumnus’ house. While I was worried that the divisions of social groups would arise here, it did not. We had frank discussions about issues, ranging from football to dealing with being from a lower socioeconomic background and ways of bridging those gaps with other students. I feel that that dinner let me see facets of others I would not normally have seen and got to understand two people deeper than I normally would.
* * *
The semester ended in a flutter of activity. I had three assignments due at the end of reading period, which fell on December 12th. On the 13th and 14th I had final exams, which led to intense cram sessions the morning of both exams. After finishing everything on the night of the 14th, I spent the morning of the 15th packing because I had my flight back to Los Angeles that evening. I should have waited a bit longer for my flight because I wish I had time to enjoy Cambridge in the winter without worrying about exams. Near the end of the semester, I needed to buy gloves and some socks, so I looked for a bargain store and found it in Central Square, which may be just a mile east from Harvard Square but is worlds apart. It felt strange to be in a bargain store because while these stores are the norm in South Gate and neighboring environs, it was the first time I was in a bargain store in Boston. The products were cheap and nameless, merely advertising what they were or their function (“can opener,” “rat poison,” etc.).
This bargain store was home for me. Some of my earliest memories are of my parents and me going to La Barata or Price City in South Gate to buy furniture and other small needs for our home, scraping by with what we had. The crowd was majority black and Latino, working class or poor buying things they needed before the snow came in and kept some of them in their homes. What bothered me most was that at this particular bargain store I stood out because I was a Harvard student and I am sure others could figure it out. In Los Angeles I am just another Mexican from South Gate, in Cambridge and Boston I am a Harvard student. It was a distinction that bothered me as I walked through the store. I try to fit in as much as possible with the residents of Cambridge and Boston but I always feel that I stand out, even when dressed in the cheapest clothing I own. The closest I ever felt to this in Los Angeles came when I visited Los Feliz over the summer.
* * *
Winter Break was about as fun as it could be. I spent a lot of time at home, partly because I got sick and mostly because I don’t plan in returning to Los Angeles for the summer. I had a few hangouts with mariachi friends, including a jam session that lasted five or six hours. I was in San Francisco for a week in January, visiting my family there. Coincidentally, one of my friends was also there that week, yet neither of us told each other we were visiting San Francisco that week.
The highlight of my winter break was a public service trip to the Navajo Nation of which I was part. I saw a part of the U.S. I’ve always wanted to visit and after that trip, I can say that I want to live in New Mexico for a time after college. I made good connections through the trip with classmates and enjoyed my time with them. While I was reserved for part of the trip, I still tried my best to make friends with them and at very least enjoy my time with them. We even met a Navajo codetalker as we made deliveries.
* * *
As I wrote this and the previous post I realized that I’ve been on WordPress for four years now. More importantly, four years ago I was waiting to hear from colleges about my college applications. At this point last year, I had already received a letter from Stanford, informing me I was accepted. I don’t think back to high school because at this point it was a blur. High school for me ended when the summer between my junior and senior years ended. That last year of high school was a blur of applications, acceptances, personal failures and underlying emotional distress.
I had the luck of not moving as a child and attending neighborhood schools all my life. My social circles from kindergarten to the twelfth grade evolved and devolved naturally, with people leaving the group as they moved to different tracks, schools, cities, or to different positions within the education pipeline (for example, there were students who were marked Gifted in elementary school who had that designation stripped when they entered junior high or high school) and saw their future opportunities limited (PDF). I never worried about being part of social groups in school, but now that I returned to college after such a leave of absence, I ask myself if this is how it feels to move to a new school and try to make friends.
* * *
The past semester was the first one I finished without a bitter taste in my mouth. So here I am, a week into the semester, waiting for my books to arrive and trudging through snow. I need to work on applications for summer jobs but those can be dispatched rather easily. What I do need to do, however, is keep working on establishing connections and maintaining those I have. I can only make so many excuses for staying inside. I need to start asking people to hang out/meet up somewhere, even if just for coffee. I fail myself if I do not at least attempt to bridge this gap.