For those who did not catch it, Tupac returned this weekend at Coachella. Brought back to the stage via the work of James Cameron’s company Digital Domain, the deceased rapper performed a live, hologram-enabled set with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.
And while Cameron was resurrecting Tupac, I received a chain email from Newt Gingrich’s campaign. Inside, I found not the expected request to help the man who seems not to know it’s over, but an advertisement for LifeLock. The email had absolutely no content related to the Gingrich campaign besides the promotion code “NEWT,” showing that political rock bottom comes with 30 percent off on a yearlong membership.
While Gingrich and Tupac Shakur are virtually opposites in every conceivable way, together they bring to my mind an important American cultural theme: We have trouble letting stuff go.
Boxers punch themselves back to a second-grade reading level before throwing in the towel. TV shows, from Happy Days to 24, drag on seasons well beyond their natural expiration date. MySpace still exists.
And yet, April at Yale is a living lesson in the grace of letting go. As seniors at Yale take their last classes, participate in their last debates and sing their last sets, they throw off a particular air. It’s the nature of the institution – there is a palpable sense that it is just time to go.
Although a certain reaction comes to all of us each April – successive disbelief at having finished your freshman year of college, suddenly being halfway done and then, astonishingly, being about to enter senior year – we can always hold on to the fact that there is something left. But for our seniors, there is no avoiding the elephant the room – or the exit sign hanging on the wall.
Still, we see seniors casually in the dining hall or across campus, laughing, joking and enjoying themselves. No albatross visibly lingers above their heads. While assuredly sad and nostalgic to a degree, they seem, for lack of a better word, content.
There are many times – a shot at moral relativism here and at normativity there – when it is proper to critique our time at Yale. But, at the end of the day, we still love the place. It becomes as much a part of us – despite, at times, our best efforts – as anything we will be a part of.
We do not need to be told that Yale possesses a wide swath of unique resources. Nonetheless, there is a subtler opportunity that Yale allows – one we often forget but are afforded a glimpse into this time of year. As the Greek gods understood envying their mortal counterparts, the end endows meaning.
When Yale says goodbye, it is a chance to let go. It is a lesson many, like Speaker Gingrich, never receive and that we are privileged to learn young. We are forced to experience closure. We learn, despite our temporary resentment or wishes for just one more week, to appreciate walking away.
For those of us who have not yet turned in a thesis and are not actually on the cusp of leaving, this is a very odd phenomenon. We cannot understand, fully, what the outgoing class is experiencing. The thought of leaving is both utterly inconceivable and strangely intimate. But even if it’s not our turn yet, April should provoke a question for us: When you’re in their shoes, what will you miss?
There is no formula for the right Yale experience. Yet the question also makes us realize that there is one thing we can do, one impulse we ought to curb. There is a nagging idea that a successful Yale experience is a cruelly busy one. We take pride in lauding our sleep deprivation, overfilled Google Calendars and countless leadership positions. Not having enough hours in the day is simply the sign of a job well done.
I do not expect this to be a particular novel insight. But, almost to its detriment, the problem’s intuitiveness often leads us to dismiss it. You can rationalize these things: There will always be time down the road to smell the roses. But this creates a trap – one that I fall into as much as anyone.
Seniors are able to reminisce. The time to create enduring memories at Yale has mostly passed. But for the rest of us, it’s important to remember that one day, deceptively soon, we are going to ask where the time went. Remember that certain tasks don’t show up on a Google Calendar.
Thankfully, we have April at Yale to remind us to slow down for a bit.
Harry Graver is a sophomore in Davenport College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.