Abby T. Forbes ’22 is a Philosophy concentrator in Adams House. Her column “The Trades” appears on alternate Fridays.
At Harvard, we push them down deep, transcending their tragedies of inaccess through our relentless resourcefulness. But through our hard work and creativity, our not-a-moment’s hesitation to grasp at any opportunity that comes our way, we have the courage at moments like these to reflect. And to reach back.
Have you ever noticed the way birthday candles melt? A carnival-colored cascade, dripping bright pinks and yellows, melting too quick for comfort. For Claudia Cabral, that fast melt marked the time to slow down. Not that she had a choice — her 20th birthday fell on the same day she was sent home at the outbreak of the pandemic. It would have been her last birthday at MIT. And it would have been the last one regardless — one semester later, Claudia would be accepted as a transfer student to Harvard.
There are some periods of your life that you look back on and think, how, exactly, did I survive that? For Alejandra, that period was the eight months she spent sleeping on the couch. The couch was located 40 minutes outside of New York City, pushed against the wall of her parents’ two-bedroom apartment. When she slept on it — if you can call it sleeping — its springs shifted beneath her, pulsing like a beat-up organ. Maybe because it was striated and red. Maroon, to be exact. Maroon — a pretty accurate word to describe the situation.
Here’s what they don’t tell you about Texas: the sunlight has a smell. Something like the texture of honey, slow and impossible to get off you once you make contact. You feel it on you all day whether you mean to or not, a persistent badge of earthy indulgence. But let’s face it: you don’t exactly mind.
My story is far from the only one that calls for a record-scratch, freeze-frame. This column celebrates the lives that First-Generation, Low-Income students built from the ground up during a period of incomprehensible chaos. What did we build after being evicted from our dorms? How did these lives change the way we experience Harvard? What did we give up, what did we gain, what did we trade? This column reminds us that we are surrounded by builders. The name “The Trades” comes from the unexpected but powerful tradewinds that sweep the Caribbean. Through the power of storytelling, we’ll explore how our environments impact our identities. And how we shape our environments right back.
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