Written Senior Perspective - Kathryn Gillespie, Women's Track and Field/Cross Country

Photo by Gil Talbot
Photo by Gil Talbot

The 2019 Senior Perspectives is the 14th 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.

Kathryn Gillespie
Harvard Women's Track and Field/Cross Country

A lot of privilege, some hard work, and few fortuitous twists of fate landed me in Cambridge four years ago. Brimming with pride and a lingering sense of fraudulence, I embarked on my academic and athletic career at Harvard (yes, the real one, as my best friend wished to clarify). However, my athletic experience at Harvard was not one of empowerment, at least at first. I’ve felt more alone and broken as a result of conforming to others’ standards for success – pounds, seconds, some number on a 4.0 scale - than I ever did before.

In spite of this, learning to stand up for what I believe in, and for the treatment of those who continue to buckle under a squat bar in PD, hobble to the training room, and shed a fleeting tear in the locker room toilet, has bolstered my sense of self. I can, and will do wonderful things, even when I’m told otherwise. Pulling on a Harvard singlet isn’t quite the same as my freshman debut, on what felt like (to my Scottish constitution) a searing marathon around Franklin Park. I’m no longer naive enough as to be brimming with pride, but I am filled with a sense of resilience, determination, and desire to never let go of what, and who, I love.

The time has come to leave Harvard Athletics behind, and I’m ready, equipped with the resolve to use my voice to fight for what I believe in, in spite of those who will continue to dampen my confidence and question my abilities. Nevertheless, I’m left with an immense feeling of contentment and gratitude for experiencing four years surrounded by strong, intelligent and empowered women who can, and will, change the world – making it a better place for generations to come.

At the end of all of this, I feel remarkably fortunate for all of those who supported me unconditionally from the beginning, never faltering in spite of a succession of failures - so many I lost track a long time ago. Harvard Athletics has reconfigured my understanding of failure, something I see as merely a symptom of ambition, and a precursor to eventual success. Looking forward, I’m excited by the prospect of challenging myself, sometimes a little too much (nobody’s perfect), confident in the steadfast emotional foundation I am so thankful for. I know now to listen to those who tell me ‘you can,’ and to silence those who tell me otherwise. I hope others begin to listen too.