“Wait, I’m keeping those!” I called across the room to a fellow dorm crew worker as he swept up a pile of long abandoned pocket change, along with a broken pen, a no longer gummy worm, and an extended family of dust bunnies.
“They’re just pennies,” he replied.
From that day on, I became know as the “Penny Picker-Upper.”
My last final exam ended at noon on May 17, marking the halfway point in my undergraduate career here at Harvard. Wait, what? How did that happen? It feels like yesterday I was sitting down to write my first article, elated and eager to fly to campus and begin my journey. Now, I’m reflecting upon the last two years and looking ahead toward the next two. The imposing “real world” seems consistently more tangible.
After my finals were over, I had planned to stay on campus to work during commencement (and see Oprah Winfrey, our commencement speaker who was receiving an honorary degree). After three weeks of vacuuming, scrubbing toilets and making more than a few gin and tonics for alumni at their reunions, I was ready to come home. Detasseling had always seemed like the worst job possible, but after cleaning the Senior House bathrooms, I re-evaluated that opinion. Did I mention it was entirely inhabited by football players? I’ll leave it at that.
Since landing at O’Hare last Friday, I have enjoyed my week off in Princeton, trying to soak in comforts of home before returning to Harvard for my job and a forensic science course this summer. Though enjoyable, this week has been a whirlwind. Between meeting friends for coffee and Myrtle’s pie, date nights and family campfires, I tried to cram in as much as possible, while also taking time to sleep, run and catch up on “Grey’s Anatomy” — you know, the important things in life.
While some of these things seem insignificant, I realized that nearly any life story can be explained as the sum of individual experiences. Some seem trivial, the pennies of the bunch, while some stand out like shiny silver quarters. Yet they all still contribute to the end sum, a lifetime of memories, or in the case of my floor change, $22.07.
In my opinion, my dorm crew partner was wrong; those copper coins are much more than “just pennies.” Being home is more than cornfields and Mom’s lasagna, but each memory I associate with home has a special place in my life. By appreciating the value of small things and recognizing the power of patience, it’s easy to find joy in everyday happenings. Thank you to my family and friends who truly make the Midwest a place I will always call home.
And just a side note: All the pennies I collected, aided by a few quarters and dimes, were used to treat a few friends to ice cream at the end of the week. Not a bad trade, I’d say.
Haley Adams, a Princeton High School graduate, is a junior at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.