I have wrapped up my first semester at Harvard, and I can safely say that it has been one of the most tumultuous, exhausting, overwhelming, and draining few months I can remember. However, it was also the most rewarding, exciting, transformative, and fun.
The lessons I have learned, both in and outside of the classroom, are innumerable, and I truly believe that I have gained so much from both my peers and my professors.
It is safe to say that I was more than just a little nervous heading into this completely new atmosphere, filled with different people, places, expectations, and possibilities than I had become used to in my 13 years at the same school in New York.
The rush to make friends, learn how to navigate campus, choose classes, and figure out an entirely novel living situation left very little time to sit back and realize how blessed I am to have received this opportunity. Almost nowhere in my thoughts was the important and always relevant fact that I am lucky just to be able to walk around. This ignorance, although shortsighted, is actually indicative of how well things are going for me. It’s a privilege to be able to occasionally forget about Moyamoya, and experience a “normal” college experience.
I don’t want to give off the wrong impression about my college experience thus far. Moyamoya has certainly played an important role in this transition in my life, especially because I am no longer surrounded by people who had known me well enough to know that my scars aren’t simply an odd hairstyle choice. Every time that I enter a new space with new people, I find myself eventually doing the obligatory “Oh yeah, these are actually scars from when I had brain surgery in second grade.” Harvard was no exception.
But this is also something that I have grown and learned a lot from, even in the first few months of Harvard. Rather early on in my friendships I explained the scars on my head, and what my experience with Moyamoya has been like. This is not really something that I would have done in the past, as many of my friends from home have some vague idea of what Moyamoya is but haven’t really ever heard the whole story. The experience of telling people that I had gotten close to, but weren’t quite that close with yet was really freeing and also has strengthened my bonds with those people. Sharing my story and what I have struggled with is a vulnerable step, but a crucial and powerful step in creating lasting and meaningful friendships, and that is something that I have learned firsthand this past semester.
Also, because of how hectic everything has been, it has not been so easy to keep track of my health and prioritize that. My sleep schedule has admittedly suffered, and sometimes I have let myself get a bit too stressed out. But there are also certain measures that I made sure that I incorporated in college, and these have gone a long way.
My blue Nalgene water bottle has been a constant in my life so far at Harvard. Before college, I had used water bottles in the past, but never to the 24/7 extent to which I relied upon that trusty Nalgene. I am constantly on the go, and it’s incredibly helpful to have water with me as I go all across campus. Often, it can be difficult to rely simply upon water fountains, as they don’t really prevent dehydration as sustainably as water bottles, and also they can sometimes be few and far between.
Another habit that I have incorporated into my life has been healthier eating. I find myself eating a lot more greens, chicken, and fruits than I had going into college, and this has been a conscious choice. I tend to feel better after a meal like that than after something much less healthy but also tastier, and I was never really a picky eater in the first place.
I am really excited to see what this next semester has in store for me, and know that whatever happens, I am nothing but lucky. I have been given this opportunity to make the most of my life–what can perhaps be seen as “borrowed time”–and I plan on doing just that.