A Memoir Of Our Own

By William Y. Yao

Life Happens When …

After spending much of the Covid year reading memoirs, I pitched this column with the simple thought that we could all, someday, be inspired to write memoirs of our own. You don’t have to be famous, renowned or anything like that. You don’t have to be a writer, or even think of yourself as someone who is crafty with words. I believe people should write more about themselves. Everyone has their own story, but too many of them go unwritten, unappreciated, unsavored.

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Memories That Resonate

These days, I frequent the Dunkin’ across the street from my dorm in Kirkland House because the dining hall’s Fogbuster doesn’t really do the trick for me anymore. Just a few days ago, I was waiting for my coffee with my violin case strapped to my back, en route to rehearsal. A high school student (I surmise), standing six-feet away, cheerily interrupted me from my exhausted mid-week daze.

“What instrument do you play?” he inquired.

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Our Own Words

Adorning a wall in my dorm room is a portrait of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with the letters “tRUTH” displayed just beneath the signature lace collar of her judge’s robe. Cleverly, it highlights a virtue so paramount to our judicial process. Her entire life, she fought relentlessly for the truth, and we live in a better world because of the work she did.

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Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn

Phone, wallet, keys, mask.

The short mental checklist I use before leaving Kirkland every morning is a tad longer these days than it used to be. I rush through Harvard Yard to class sipping my tea, and just before entering the building I deftly slip on my surgical mask. We’ve all become proficient in donning and doffing this newest wardrobe piece. Had you shown me my current collection of face masks a few years ago, I would have theorized that my future self decided on medical school.

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Running on Crossroads

I used to run alone. I’d lace up my tattered sneakers, worn well beyond their recommended mileage, and run just outside the painted white lines marking the side of the road. It made sense to me. I could decide to go at a moment’s notice.

I could decide on my own when, where, and how fast to run. Running was an individual sport, after all. A contest against my watch, against myself. One of the first sensations that got me hooked on it was the sense of pride that I felt after pushing myself on a run, over all the fatigue and pain. It was the sense of accomplishment a lot of runners feel after a hard, honest effort. I truly felt my mind, my mental fortitude, played just as important a role as my legs.

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