I am ruefully aware of my own self-seriousness. I wish I was funnier at my own expense, rather than in spite of myself. Recently, I was browsing my Harvard 10 year reunion report, and feeling dreadfully inadequate. Seriously, do other schools do this? They request an update from you, with no limitations as to length (and some people do go on!) about everything you’ve been up since the last reunion. They also hit you up for $60, to cover the cost of the publication of said report (it is actually a bound book) and mailing it to everyone. (I myself neither contributed nor paid . . . but find myself desultorily/obsessively perusing it whenever I throw myself on the couch, despite the fact that I know almost none of the names, and the people that I do remember didn’t write in.)
It’s a brag-book, basically. People list their legion accomplishments: degrees, high-powered jobs, children, spouses, spouses’ degrees, spouses’ high-powered jobs, houses, foreign travel, etc. A couple of the more extreme overachievers from my class that spring to mind is a woman living in Manhattan who is a plastic surgeon with her own private practice who also teaches at a med school and is also a mother of twins(!), and a physics professor at Harvard who also runs ultramarathons (100 plus miles) and home-birthed both of her children in the bathroom of the Harvard dorm in which she is a resident advisor(!!). Not to mention the many many people who are lawyers, and have ALSO published two novels, and ALSO restore classic cars, and ALSO have several children, etc. etc. It all sounds very tiring, actually.
Later on, having gotten over my spasm of worthlessness, it occurred to me that it is as well that Harvard alums are so darn ambitious and accomplished. I mean, they’re SUPPOSED to be — they went to Harvard after all, right? If they weren’t all so impressively accomplished and successful then what is there for the rest of us to be intimidated by? Somebody’s got to set the high bar. It’s just funny to realize that, well, I’m not one of them. I guess I always just assumed I would be.
Later still, when Dave and I went for a run together, he was musing about an impossible potential experiment, graphing the achievements of legacy Harvard alums against non-legacy Harvard alums. We both thought that the non-legacy grads probably were more driven and went on to achieve more, but that the experiment wouldn’t reveal this because probably lots of the legacy alums went on to be very successful as well, but potentially due to family/social connections rather than pure striving.
Dave and I both, in the way of full disclosure, are third generation Harvard legacies, so if you want to hate on us for going there, you can certainly make yourself feel better by telling yourself that’s why we got in. It’s probably true, anyway.