Red Bull and Swedish Fish

A Cambridge summer: growing up—and not

It was shortly after watching my poor fan concede defeat and jump off my windowsill that I realized that summer in Cambridge is beyond hot. It’s sweltering and stifling, scorching and sizzling. But it’s not just the sun or the overuse of alliteration that heats the place up. No, the main source of heat for the summer, as any chemistry student will affirm, is pressure. 

“But Brett, you moron,” you gently remind me: “It’s summer; there’s no pressure during summer vacation.” To you, Annoying Reader, I say: Codswallop. Although there are no tests or grades, there is the incredible pressure of feeling like you have to do something proactive about your future. Want to be a teacher? Better get an internship at the American Federation of Teachers or volunteer in a charter school. Want to work in the State Department? Make sure you brush up on your language skills and get a job overseas. My classmates are providing clean water for rural villages in Africa and building houses in Haiti. They’re studying neurotransmitters and teaching civics, preparing for the LSATs and observing surgeries. Harvard vacations are hardly vacant, and Harvard students are hardly sedentary.

For me, however, due to an unfortunate propensity to get rejected from every job I applied for, thinking about the future meant less about Brett Rosenberg, Potential Woman of the Workforce, and more about my future as Brett Rosenberg, Maybe-kind-of-if-you-don’t-look-that-closely Potential Adult. For the first time ever, I was living by myself. I had to buy my own food. I had to cook my own meals. No longer would “on that little patch of floor over there” be an appropriate designation for where I hung up my coat. I even had to build up my atrophying finger muscles: my keychain, holding five whole keys, weighed more than any I’d ever owned. The time had come, to echo the walrus, to do a little growing up.

It was only after three days of soul-searching and repeated viewings of Patton and Rocky III that I finally found the strength, the miracle fiber buried deep within, to emerge from my blanket fort and face this coming-of-age experience head on. I dragged myself out of bed at 7:30 and began to work 40 hours a week. I lived in, and did not destroy, an apartment all by myself. I stocked the pantry and the refrigerator, and then sat in the refrigerator for a little cooling-off session. I even scowled down at the sidewalk as I made my way to work the next morning. So far, so good.

But even though I had my own mailbox, the only pieces of mail were addressed to “Resident” and “Anthony George.” (Anthony, if you’re reading this, I have your latest issue of Bass Fishing). I did manage to buy my own groceries, but my list consisted of pasta (good for energy), green beans (so I can grow big and strong), Swedish Fish (for the omega 3 fatty acids), and Nutella (well, duh). And although I cooked my own food, I also managed to cook an oven mitt, providing me with visions of burning down an entire city block (although that may just have been from the gas I inhaled from the stove). This summer provided me with the trappings of adulthood, but despite the heat’s best efforts, my true nature managed to rear its propeller-cap-wearing head. Taking off the footie pajamas turned out to be a lot easier said than done. (I swear those things shrank in the wash.)


There is a tendency always to be looking toward the next thing—to be preparing for graduation, a job search, a marriage, a few kids and maybe a rabbit, a mortgage, escrow, learning what escrow actually means, and maybe a nice retirement to Vermont or Guam. But if some students are certainly able to handle all of that forward thinking, I’m not the only one who shows a little resistance. A polka-dotted backpack here, a pair of bright pink lab goggles there, we quietly resist the high-powered expectations of a high-powered school, preferring to enjoy our summer days and leave the rest for later.

That isn’t to say that I didn’t learn anything from my summer experience. I learned that even though I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up (historian, linebacker for the New York Giants, ninja?), I hope that writing will somehow figure in my career. I learned that I am not to be trusted grocery shopping for myself. And I learned that while I was clearly failing at the whole “grown-up” thing, my summer—and my greater college experience—did not suffer one bit. The combination of Red Bull and Toy Story 3 gummies might make for a powerful stomachache, but at what other point in life am I going to get the chance to cook so innovatively? Sure, I inadvertently dyed my underwear pink, but summer is all about starting new fashion trends (and now I can wear those no-longer-white socks after Labor Day). So bring it on, Cambridge. I can take the heat. 

Oh, but Anthony?  When you come by to pick up your mail, could you please drop off an extra fan? 




Brett Rosenberg ’12, already on her third shower of the day, has returned home from Cambridge and is enjoying the wonders of fruits and vegetables with her family.

Read more articles by: Brett Rosenberg
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