Each year we ask our classmates a straightforward, simple question taken from the last lines of a poem by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Mary Oliver. We share with you intimate and candid responses to this question, "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean -
the one who has flung herself
out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out
of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and
forth instead of up and down -
who is gazing around with her
enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and
thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open,
and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down
in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how
to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Class of 2011
Everyone eats. Three times a day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Some eat to live, others live to eat. I live to help others improve what they eat.
Despite living in an age of deep connectedness—of social networks, smart phones, and Starbucks—we are often alone. We desire to be known—we yearn for affirmation that we matter.
"Worms? There are no worms in my corn! If you find one, bring it back and I'll give you a dozen corn for free."
Roller coasters scare me. The overwhelming speed. The stomach-wrenching plunges. The unpredictable twists and turns.
Playing football for Harvard University should have been my crowning achievement — but I was afraid.
We often associate magic with the extraordinary and the unexpected. I've learned that magic is in fact omnipresent and can be found in moments as quotidian as a morning walk to work, or in things as simple as a smile.
An image from my childhood home provides inspiration: A framed photo of my family's olive tree with its stumpy figure, gnarled roots, and uneven snow-covered branches reveals the incredible resilience and strength of character developed over its 1,400 year life...
An explosion is followed by foreign army tanks, men pushing, women yelling, and children screaming. I turn the other way and she runs to me, arms widespread, green eyes illuminated, light brown hair flowing, smiling ear to ear. "What's wrong?" she asks.
I never saw the rocket-propelled grenade that was meant to kill me that morning. I just heard it scream over my head and erupt in a deafening explosion behind me.
I lost my dad when I was nineteen. He suffered from an undiagnosed rare heart condition. Fittingly to those who knew him well, his heart was literally too big.
I'll let you in on a secret: I often pretend I'm a Bollywood star.
You may see me walking down the halls of Aldrich to my next class; little do you know that I'm actually strutting down a runway in a music video, wind in my hair and camera lights in my face.
Make a home where I am, and make others feel at home. Growing up Ethiopian in America I was suspended between realities. An outsider in suburbia, yet an unmistakable American on visits to Ethiopia, I felt at home nowhere. Almost.
My younger sister flaps her hands with wild excitement when she's happy. Her favorite days usually involve a great movie and a hand-tossed pizza.
Today is a big day—it is October of my first year of teaching, my mentor will observe me for the first time, and my principal announced yesterday that I will have new desks in my room.
I must catch my breath, and break my fast. Dusk has become irrelevant in an electric uptempo world. Dusk still matters to me for 30 days a year, at least.
Like lots of MBAs, I pretty piously followed a traditional metric of success. Recognition, compensation and career progress ostensibly paved the road to achievement.
When I was 18, I became a man. It happened while I was digging irrigation trenches in central Kentucky horse farms.
I used to see the world in black and white, circumscribed by the steadfast principles my parents taught me: work hard, do good, live humbly.
I remember the moment when the country I was born in ceased to exist. A 7-year-old Soviet kid, I clearly recall the unusual heaviness of the air, my parents' eyes full of both fear and excitement, and a feeling that something impossible and life-changing was about to happen.
Two hours after completing a grueling lunch shift, I tended to an empty barbeque restaurant — slicing lemons, arranging ketchups, refilling salt shakers — doing my best to bide the time and not worry about college.
You hear me coming around the corner before you see me. My earphones fill my world with song and I often raise my voice to join it. I want a life of joyful melodies worth singing loudly and unashamedly.
I checked my watch as I stood by the side of the road, worrying about a dinner reservation and waiting for my bus to arrive.
As a child, nature was my playground and her creatures were my playmates.
The woman carefully unwrapped three coins from her threadbare kanga and pushed them toward the shopkeeper. There was a mixture of desperate hope and resignation on her face.
Is there a way to more easily bring families together?
When I was a young child, staring out from our old, dilapidated apartment in Shanghai, the world seemed endless.