It’s being awed and intimidated and a little bit thrilled. Me? They picked me?
It’s walking through hundreds of years’ worth of history between the subway station and my office. Which is in the basement. (We call it the “garden level,” but it’s still the basement.)
It’s dodging tour groups on my lunchtime walks through Harvard Yard, and becoming the de facto Harvard tour guide for everyone I know who visits Cambridge. It’s eavesdropping on those official tours, storing up bits of Harvard lore to share on my unofficial ones.
It’s walking Harvard Square, gradually learning which buildings belong to which part of the university. It’s peeking into the secluded quads of the undergraduate houses, learning their names: Eliot, Lowell, Quincy. It’s walking by the music rooms at Adams House and catching a snippet of someone’s piano practice.
It’s going to Morning Prayers at Memorial Church on occasion, to the Harvard Art Museums on Thursdays, to occasional lectures and sporting events for free. It’s roaming the stacks in Widener Library, hardly daring to believe that the resources of this place are at my fingertips. (Sometimes I check out new and notable novels; sometimes it’s obscure English fiction or Veronica Mars DVDs.)
It’s hearing President Faust speak regularly, sometimes in conjunction with world-famous authors, politicians and other celebrities. It’s being amazed at the pomp and circumstance of Commencement. It’s meeting students from all over the world, who are grateful and excited and glad to be here.
It’s explaining, over and over again, how my job and my office and my school fit into the larger Harvard community. It’s loving the note of pride in my dad’s voice when he says, “My daughter works at Harvard.” (The farther away from Boston you are, the cooler it sounds.)
It’s finding a group of warmhearted, funny, brilliant colleagues to work with and love.
It’s a nine-to-five desk job: email, paperwork, phone calls, meetings. It’s projects and politics and deadlines. It is just like a lot of other universities, and it isn’t like anywhere else in the world.
I have worked at Harvard for two years today. It is ancient and distinguished and beautiful, and it is also the backdrop for the dailiness of my working life. It’s where I make jokes with my colleagues and answer email and juggle lots of projects. It’s where I get frustrated and tired and overwhelmed, and also where I find joy and satisfaction, as I do my best to do good work.
Harvard Square has become my neighborhood: it has my bank and post office and farmers’ market, my flower shop and bookstores and favorite lunch spots. Sometimes, out and about on an errand, I run into someone I know, which makes this big, crowded city feel like a small town. And sometimes, on my evening walk to the subway, I see the uplit spires of Memorial Hall and Memorial Church, and my breath catches in my chest with gratitude.