Turned off the lights, dropped off the key, threw out the trash, and zipped up the bags. At 4:55PM, I said goodbye to Harvard. Graduation truly sank in not when Commencement adjourned, not when I received my diploma, not when I shedded my regalia, but when I removed all traces of myself from this institution.
Commencement was the long-awaited high, like the ferris wheel’s peak, a moment of panoptic eagle-eye view of the institution in its centuries-old glory, the expansive world before us for our taking. Packing up and moving out was like an after-hours amusement park — quietude after pageantry. I sorted through the detritus and mementos that made up four years’ worth of memories: books dating back all the way to Hum10 in the fall of 2017, alongside copies signed by professors and visiting writers; stacks of lecture handouts, screenplay drafts annotated by foreign hand, oral exam scribbles; soft toys and figurines that have traveled from Canaday E to DeWolfe to G Tower to McKinlock; UberEats receipts, photobooth strips, handwritten letters and artworks from friends, bookmarks from Cairo, Istanbul, DC, Beijing. I won’t bring most of these onto the next chapter of my life, but their memories stay.
Thank you, Harvard. For these four (five) years. For your intellectual oasis, the people you bring together, the bubble within your gates, the education you’ve given me, your reach and the opportunities it births, and, as I realized on the day of Commencement, the intimacy within your pomp and circumstance.
As I stood there in regalia amid my fellow seniors in the Old Yard, watching as the President’s Division and faculty swished past us in multi-colored robes (like a cavalcade of wizards right out of Harry Potter), familiar professors would stop to say hi and shake my hand or give me a hug. When President Bacow gave his speech, he mentioned meeting “four international students” last week (Yiting, Shriank, Karen, and me) and learning that some of our parents couldn’t make it to Commencement due to travel restrictions (e.g. my dad who is now mainly working in China) — and when Bacow told everyone to wave at the cameras and say hi to those faraway but nonetheless part of this moment, I thought of my dad.
Thank you to my dearest parents, to whom I owe everything. ❤️ To Mommy, who escaped from the lockdown in Shanghai to attend my graduation, thank you for always being the force of life and the compass behind each of my most important milestones. To Daddy, who couldn’t be here in person, thank you for being the pillar that holds up my sky and my lighthouse in times of trial. Without both of your love and wisdom, I would never had made it to Harvard, let alone now graduate without regrets. I love you so, so much.
To God, who has always steered me through darkness and light, thank You for leading me through life’s travails with purpose, for Your lessons and abundant blessings that have made me into the person I am today, and for lending meaning to all that I do. I embark on life’s next chapter under Your eternal guidance.
It’s midnight and I have too much to say—there will be pt. 2 and pt. 3 on this blog, I promise. For now, here’s a short goodbye that’s easy to say. 🙂