MAZZELLA: The mental packing list

Since the beginning of August, I have consulted a myriad of packing lists for college. First, there was the FOOT equipment checklist, which included a freshly charged headlamp and long underwear. There was my mother’s list, which contained an enormous amount of cleaning supplies and a giant water purifier — despite the fact that I’m moving to a neighboring state, not rural China. Finally, there was my own list, which I had really boiled down to the essentials: fan, toothpaste, soap, value-sized tub of Nutella and the like. After reading some articles on the web, however, I realized my list was missing something. Something I’m supposed to bring with me everywhere I go during the opening days of college: interesting facts about myself.

This is where I hesitated. The items on the other packing lists had all been checked off — I really do have a giant thing of Nutella sitting on top of my bags. But I’ve been struggling to come up with more than a few truly interesting or unique facts about myself. I live in a small Massachusetts suburb with both my parents, an older sister, and an adorable dog whose biggest claim to fame is that he’s sometimes able to catch the treats I throw to him. My high school activities were all fairly normal — tennis team, student government, pep band — and while I loved them all, none of them sound exceedingly interesting. Even the career personality test I took in a 10th grade guidance class placed me in something called “Region 99”: the description simply read “Your interests do not indicate a clear direction at this time.” I am not double jointed, nor can I sing (although at Yale, that may actually make me unique), and my summer trip to Europe was wonderful, thank you for asking! Remind me to show you the pictures sometime!

Naturally, this struggle gave way to fear. If I can’t even come up with interesting facts about myself, how am I going to fit into the community of talented and intriguing people at Yale? What can I contribute, other than the TV and a beanbag chair for my common room? I know why I chose Yale — the weather, obviously — but why did Yale choose me?

Many of my friends expressed the same concerns about starting college. We all feel slightly unworthy of attending the wonderful institutions that, for whatever reason, have opened their doors to us. We worry about squandering the fabulous resources they offer us, wasting time and money, and finding our place among the incredible students already there.

But there’s the key: we all feel this way at some point. The impressive people already at Yale are no different; they too must have worried about these problems as they rolled up to Old Campus years before. Despite these fears, they have succeeded; they have found a place at Yale, utilized its resources, and accomplished amazing things.

There is no doubt in my mind that we, the Class of 2015, will follow in their footsteps. We might be nervous now, but in a few years we will be in their position, trying to assuage the fears of new students and assuring them that there is a reason Yale chose them. We all have some kind of potential, even if we might draw a blank when asked what it is. Fellow freshmen, please take comfort in the knowledge that you are not the only nervous one out there. We all deserve to be here. Let’s enjoy it. And don’t forget to pack your water purifier.

Jason Mazzella is a freshman in Ezra Stiles College.

Comments

  • River Tam

    I like this one a lot.

    But there’s one thing that strikes me as wrong when Mr. Mazzella alludes to it, and strikes me as wrong every time I hear it from a Dean, Provost, President, or UCS counselor: you are *not* going to succeed simply because you’re at Yale. You’re *not* going to accomplish amazing things simply because Yale chose you. The road is littered with unsuccessful graduates of every school, Yale included. And it sucks. It sucks to see kids not worry about their academic performance or finding a job or planning for their future because “it’s okay – I’ll have a Yale degree” (I’m looking at you, UCS).

    You worked hard to get to Yale. Now keep it up, or the kids from QPac will eat your lunch when it comes time to find a job, get funding for your cool new start-up, or get into graduate programs. You were doing something right to get here – hopefully you can reinforce your strengths, shore up your weaknesses, and excel – Yale gives you the tools to do so.

    Complacency kills.