Here is part of the truth about working at Harvard: it took a little while for it to feel like mine.
I admit to being a little intimidated – as one might expect. Harvard is storied, prestigious and often complicated to navigate, geographically and otherwise. (Harvard comprises more than a dozen schools, which each function as semi-autonomous units, but there’s a lot of cross-pollination, and some policies and procedures are university-wide.)
I was fortunate to find a “home base” right away: my office at the Ed School’s campus on Appian Way, two blocks from the heart of the Square. I had colleagues who made me feel welcome and tried to explain the ins and outs of working for a unit within Harvard, while still being part of Harvard as a whole. (Confused yet?)
That first winter, I set about exploring Harvard Square, starting with familiar ground: Crema Cafe, the Yard, Memorial Church, the Harvard Book Store. Gradually, I added to my store of knowledge: shops, cafes and restaurants; the bank, the post office, the florist. I peeked into Widener Library, daring to check out a few books and DVDs. I soaked up the bits of Harvard lore I heard from colleagues and student tour guides, and I memorized dozens of acronyms related to offices and units across campus. (Harvard loves an acronym.)
For a long while, I stuck mostly to my small patch of the Square: my office, the Yard, my favorite cafes and bookstores. I was a little shy about going farther afield. This is a big place, and it’s easy to get lost, or to feel intimidated when you’re heading to a new part of campus. There is so much to absorb, so much to take in, about this place and how it works. It can be hard to feel like you really belong here.
Two and a half years in, I still feel these things occasionally. But by now, Harvard also feels like mine.
My work this summer has taken me to parts of campus I’d never seen before: the Divinity School, the Graduate School of Design, the Center for Astrophysics, the brand-new Launch Lab over at the Business School. I’ve spent a few afternoons in Lamont Library and found my way to numerous new-to-me offices and buildings.
All the while, I’ve continued to frequent my favorite places: Harvard Yard, green and summer-lush; the Harvard Art Museums, full of objects both fascinating and beautiful; Appian Way, still my center of gravity here. And I have realized again what I already knew: I love this place, this landscape, this institution, down to my bones.
I never expected to work at Harvard, or to fall in love with it the way I have. But I am grateful to be here, retracing familiar paths and discovering new corners of campus. It can be complicated, sometimes maddeningly bureaucratic – and the intimidation hasn’t all disappeared. But my Harvard staff ID and my heart say the same thing: it’s mine.