Day ???: Prose is peace.

Walking back to my dorm after an extra help session for bio yesterday (where I basically had to admit to my professor that I hadn't understood a thing she's said over the last three weeks), I called a friend to tell him about the very humbling, almost humiliating, kind of hilarious experience. He made some sympathetic remarks, and when I responded with a classically Ratna, "but isn't this what it feels like to learn?!" he mumbled something along the lines of, "I guess..."

My attention in class wanes as the week waxes, but a byproduct of this is that I also wax philosophical. It's almost laughable how lost I feel in some (all?) of my classes right now, and remarkable how okay I am with it. My little sister was talking to me last night about how high school sometimes makes her feel stupid, to which yesterday's Ratna responded the following:

"I have purposely plunged myself into experiences designed to make me feel 'stupid' this semester. My climate change seminar is filled with people who understand the world better than I do. My math class (which, it should be pointed out, is of the lowest level offered at Harvard) feels like it is being played in fast forward every morning. In my bio class, it is impossible to take notes for a second without missing the next ten slides' worth of information (the study of life is killing me). My a cappella group is pushing me to turn around parts faster than I've ever done before (i.e. feel tonedeaf). Even the Latin isn't as intuitive this year."

I guess I could be chipper and say I enjoy the challenges, but it's not exactly the challenge of it all that I enjoy. I just enjoy being here. The information means something to me. It's been an interesting insight into what is important to me as an individual, what I enjoy doing the most (which turns out to be studying), and how happy coffee makes me.

Speaking of which, this whole post might be a product of the aforementioned, and is it bad that I drafted this during class?!

Can't help falling in love.

I've been making a lot of music with my amazing a cappella group The Opportunes recently, but I took some time this weekend to hit the "studio" with piano prodigy Sam Pottash, recording one of my favorite Elvis songs as covered by Ingrid Michaelson. Click here to have a listen!

Could there be a better present?!

Walking to breakfast this morning, I had the weirdest thought. "My cell phone case doesn't match my outfit." Completely random and especially odd because on most days, my outfit doesn't even match my outfit. But the thought crossed my mind, and I made a mental note to request Priya to order me a case more neutral than my bright turquoise one.

I had received an email informing me of a package waiting for me in the mail room this morning, and, after breakfast with Javier, I hurried to the basement of the Science Center to check it out. Waiting for me was the most attractive and thoughtful gift I've ever seen -- a case for my iPhone. But rather than being composed of neutral colors or adorned with a brand name, this case is a patchwork of photographs taken during my gap year, of images close to my heart.

Tierney Manning is my big sister, one of many amazing female role models I'm blessed to know and have spent time with during the year. When I called her as she was in slumber (she works at the ER and spends days catching up on sleep) to leave her a squeaky voicemail thanking her for sending me the cutest thing I've ever seen, she texted me back saying, "I'm sooooooo glad you love it. I know you were stressed about leaving a chapter in your life and now you can memorialize it!" What an amazing friend. Her addendum to this was, "plus, I miss you and have an excuse to send you a picture of us!" I don't know what I've done to deserve such awesome people in my life (the one who designed the case as well as those pictured on it), but I know that this post could just as appropriately be titled "Could there be a better friend?!" Tierney, you've made my day. Again.

"Ratna is an Opportune! Ratna is an Opportune!"

I would usually be displeased and/or confused waking up and showering at 6:40 on a Sunday morning, but today was an odd sort of exception. My sleep stirred to unimaginably raucous chanting outside my room, of "RATNA IS AN OPPORTUNE! RATNA IS AN OPPORTUNE!" I opened my dormitory door and was at once drenched in champagne and noise.

Back up -- what's an Opportune? I've spent the last week auditioning for various a cappella groups, preparing an excerpt from Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah for my short solo audition the first night, different assigned songs for nights two and three, and finally, after much sleepless deliberation, The Chain for my full-length solo yesterday. At each of these audition nights, we were also taught our parts in a fairly complicated background "block" which we were to spew out again after a moment's practice, leaving my mathematically inept mind in a tizzy (music notes are just numbers!).

The process was at times nerve-wracking, horrendous on occasion, but always exciting. And beautiful. I had at least one moment during each of these auditions when I was left thinking, "Music, man -- this is all we have," or something equally all-encompassing (admittedly, these moments were usually brought on by tenors singing in falsetto).

Final Night yesterday was breathtaking. (Almost literally, as members of the Opportunes urged us auditionees up the endless stairs to Lowell Bell Tower, where we perched in candlelit celebration of song.) I cried at least twice, once upon hearing the seniors' speeches about their time with the group through their college days and once when they sang a beautiful song that was a little too close to home. :)

Imagine my glee, therefore, at my wake-up call this morning! I can only laugh at what the bouncy group saw when they looked back at me as I cracked the door open -- red eyes squinting, slightly crusty retainer grinning, flannel pajamas and Flint Hill Yearbook t-shirt soon to be stickily soaked. They made a great hullabaloo, handed me the champagne bottle and a dozen donuts (presumably to appease hallmates awoken at this hour), and stomped away chanting, "WE'VE GOT BABY OPPORTUNES! WE'VE GOT BABY OPPORTUNES!"

"How's Harvard?"

I wish I could write daily and tell you guys how the move to college has been the most beautiful transition of my life, but the rampant socializing and sickness that are so quintessential to my existence tend to render this intensity of writing impractical. 

Everything is great. This week is Shopping Week, which sounds like we can all run around and take whatever classes we want for a week with neither homework nor responsibility, but actually ends up being mayhem as very few of us currently know what we're doing with our lives...or our semesters. 

I do think I know what I'm taking, and my schedule is looking like:


OEB 10: Foundations of Biological Diversity

An integrated approach to the diversity of life, emphasizing how chemical, physical, genetic, ecological and geologic processes contribute to the origin and maintenance of biological diversity. Topics to be covered include the evolution of metabolic pathways, multicellularity and structural complexity; causes and consequences of differences in diversity over space and time; the role of species interactions (including symbioses) as an evolutionary force; and the evolution of humans and their impact on the environment.

Mathematics Ma

The study of functions and their rates of change. Fundamental ideas of calculus are introduced early and used to provide a framework for the study of mathematical modeling involving algebraic, exponential, and logarithmic functions. Thorough understanding of differential calculus promoted by year long reinforcement. Applications to biology and economics emphasized according to the interests of our students.

Public Policy Approaches to Global Climate Change

Reviews what is known about greenhouse gas emissions' possible impact on climate. Explores possible impact of climate change on social and economic conditions over the next century. Investigates possible public policy responses to these developments, including actions both to adapt to and to mitigate climate change. What would be the costs of adaptation? Would an investment in mitigating the changes be worthwhile? Are there possibilities for international cooperation in dealing with the problem?

Virgil: Aeneid

Reading and discussion of Virgil's Aeneid, with attention to its place in the epic tradition and its status as a work of Augustan literature.


I was just internally groaning at how the majority of my course load looks like it will require me to employ the left (and admittedly less developed) side of my brain, before I shuffled into my Latin class and staggered out just a bit bowled over by the beauty being poured at the students for no reason but aesthetic appreciation. In my case, this appreciation also led to enthusiastic yelps which served hopefully to convince Anne Marie that this class may be an enjoyable use of her time this semester.

Perhaps my enthusiasm was caused in part by the fact that I've been deprived of academics for most of this week (and all of this year) due to the raging fever I've been rolling around in. Interestingly enough, this sickness has been a crash course in meeting my hall mates, who happen to be five of the world's sweetest and most supportive no-nonsense women. (I also have a secret theory that whoever is in charge of rooming conducted a psychological study which resulted in the selection of my roommate -- Eliza and I share wild mental similarities.)

So, all in all: life is good, the stress starts soon, and I'm off to lay in "the Yard" and work on a problem set now! I love my new home.

Thank you for reading!

And so comes to a close this crazy journey. Thank you so much for accompanying me along the way, whether it was by training me, teaching me, advising me, "socializing" with me, talking to me, listening to me, or simply by reading along.
I am reminded each day, by something or the other, how happy I am with my decision to have taken a gap year. The incredible trips I made and people I met seem to weave themselves beautifully into my every experience, and I couldn't be more thankful.

So thank you, friends, and thank you, planet, for my 365 gap days.