The 2017 Senior Perspectives is the 12th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.
Eela Nagaraj, Women's Water Polo
Hometown: Los Altos Hills, Calif.
Concentration: Computer Science
House Affiliation: Lowell
It feels surreal to reflect on my senior season and my athletic career as a whole here at Harvard. I don’t really know where to begin, as the past four years playing here have both been incredibly difficult and truly worthwhile. This season has been fantastic, yet oddly, it is how wonderful this year’s experience is that makes the past three years feel even more bittersweet. I missed the second half of my sophomore season due to a concussion, which is a strange and frustrating injury to deal with since it affects all aspects of life. Where I could earlier find solace in academics when water polo was difficult or vice versa, I no longer had a release from one or the other. I was excited to return to play the next year, for my junior season, but unfortunately missed the entire year due to a shoulder injury and then another concussion one week after returning from the first injury. This time was significantly more difficult, as I was serving as a co-captain at the time and could not help but feel like I was constantly letting the team down. I tried to be there as a leader in all the capacities that I could, but it was challenging to ignore the nagging voice in the back of my head that I was failing my team, that no one wants to hear encouragement during a difficult drill or game from a mere spectator. Of course, I was surrounded by the most perceptive, intelligent, and caring group of women that I could ask for, and they did everything that they could to help me. Rather than focusing on their compassion and sincere attempts to help me, I was blinded by my self doubt and perception of what others expected of me. I don’t mean to complain or wish for another experience, because as frustrating of a time as this was, it has made me see every day that I can practice and play this season as the gift that it is. Most importantly, reflecting on the challenges of the past years only solidifies how fortunate I am to have such a strong support system in my teammates, coaches, and friends. The recovery process led to having many challenging conversations with friends and teammates that not only strengthened my interpersonal relationships but also resulted in the realization that vulnerability is not a weakness. My athletic career here has certainly not been what I expected it to be, but it has revealed a lot about who I am as a person and provided valuable lessons that I could not have learned through any other aspects of my Harvard experience. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to represent Harvard as a Division I athlete, surrounded by the best teammates and coaches that I could ask for.