Sunday, September 16, 2007

Catching up on lost time

I took my first extended ride today on Eddie, which is what I've chosen to call my bike. I really wanted to call it Charlie, but it just wasn't right. Plus, the bike is a Murray, and has an ancient sticker on the frame declaring the company the official bike of the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team. I'll take a picture of it soon. Anyway, I settled on Eddie in honor of former Baltimore Oriole great Eddie Murray, one of only four, I believe, men ever to reach 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.

It wasn't the most pleasant ride because I haven't replaced the rock-hard seat yet, and I need to fix something with the front derailler. Word to the wise -- never fiddle with your bike hardware when you're wearing a white shirt.

I live at Memorial Drive and Massachusetts Avenue, just across the bridge from Back Bay. One of the great eccentricities of Boston-area roads is that these two, which meet at my house as a standard four-way intersection, both lead to Harvard. So I went down Memorial, discovering to my delight that Sunday is the day they close down a sufficient stretch of the road and only allow bikes, rollerbladers and pedestrians on it. It's cool.

The stretch is right by Harvard, which is cool. Snobby elitism or not, it's cool. I'm not going to go to pieces over it, and I've started to feel my place at MIT. Nerds are fun, especially when they're not worrying about being hassled by anybody but other nerds. But after I came home from my long ride I was reading the last few days' papers in preperation for class tomorrow. One, in the Times, noted the departure of Harvard's endowment chief, and wondered outloud if a university with $35 billion really even needs to charge tuition. They already waive it for families with income below $60,000.

I was trying to explain to classmates the either day what my high school was like -- a place where they didn't take MLK day off because "we don't have enough black students to make it worthwhile." I can't explain. But what's worse is when you stay long enough for that to become your standard of normalcy. I knew it was insane, deep down I did, but after 7 years I couldn't truly imagine the outside world anymore.

Then while I was reading, the obvious stuck me: If I had been ambitious, I maybe could have gone to Harvard for next-to-nothing. I would've needed more extracirriculars and leadership resume b.s., but if I were ambitious I would have done it. I still remember my father antogonizing me one day coming home from school for not participating in the science fair, and I remember the leader of my high school Sunday school class pushing me to apply to schools in Hawaii or California. "Think big." I've given up on being disappointed in my father for choosing proximity to family and affordable cost of living in Oklahoma over the other choice -- allowing me to grow up in the Bay Area. Now I've given over to resenting my short-sighted high school self for giving in -- not being able to see past hick authority figures who don't care about Martin Luther King to, you know, going to Harvard for free.

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