You may not know me yet, but I’m basically Yale’s unofficial arbiter of wisdom. When the Whiffenpoofs almost switched their tuxes for matching cheetah print sweats, I’m the one who convinced their pitch that spots don’t go with his complexion. When President-elect Peter Salovey considered changing our school’s mascot to Justin Bieber, I’m the one who reminded him that in a fight-to-the-death chess match, a bulldog would probably win. When Yale asked me for guidance as it planned the two new residential colleges, I’m the one who pointed to the hideous monoliths of Ezra Stiles and Morse and shook my head forebodingly. You can thank me later.
More confusing than Salovey’s Bieber Fever, however, is the delightful conundrum before you today: You have two days at Yale, and approximately 2,439 different activities listed on your online calendar. You have probably read through 2,438 of them, because you’re really smart and serious and you terrify me, just a little bit.
My children, if you’ll let me, I can cut your Gordian knot. In my opinion, during your brief preview of Yale, you can commit yourself to one of two equally noble undertakings: You can either schedule all 48 of your hours around consuming as much Claire’s Cake as possible, or you can deliberately seek out the worst experiences available to you.
Okay, so one of those options is self-explanatory: Cake is great and this week all of it will be free. That’s a no-brainer. But why, you wonder, do I want you to be miserable?
It’s simple: It is my belief that it is impossible to be miserable at Yale.
During my Bulldog Days, the sky literally opened up and took a massive dump on campus. It rained interminably, unrelentingly, like the last scene (spoiler alert) in One Hundred Years of Solitude. And it was cold: Coming from Louisiana, I felt like I’d taken a time machine back to December. From that dusky, drizzly Monday evening to that gray, soggy Wednesday afternoon, I don’t think my feet were dry once. I could be wrong, though, because they lost feeling halfway through.
So I was cold, wet and enraptured. I knew almost immediately — standing in front of Commons Rotunda bumping umbrellas with the other pre-frosh — that I had found the most wonderful spot on the planet. Not because Beinecke Plaza is particularly beautiful at night — there are better views on campus — but because I was surrounded by some of the most invitingly intellectual, unexpectedly engaging people I’d ever met.
The super secret, super awesome superpower of Yale is that nothing can dim her. Oh, Harvard and Princeton are pretty enough in the summer, but strip the trees of leaves and the grass of green and suddenly the defining motif on campus is the scowl on everyone’s face. Yale, on the other hand, glows in the dark: Winter brings out her shapes, her edges and etchings, her solemn majesty, her sky-bound spires. In the spring, she blossoms. In the fall, she molts like phoenix, blazing. As I learned from my last relationship, attractiveness matters. And Yale — architecturally and personally — is hella attractive.
So, my dear pre-frosh, amidst this beauty and this joy, you should try to be unhappy. If you commit yourself to the path of attempted misery, avoid Claire’s Cake. Eat tofu in the dining halls, and greasy A1 Pizza when you go out. Attend an event with the Tory party; force yourself to stay until the very end. Sleep in Ezra Stiles for a night, and if you’re really brave, attend an a cappella concert. Attend several.
Even if — and this is almost certain — you decide you could be perfectly content to never hear a four part harmony again, you will not, I promise, be miserable. And when you leave this Wednesday, you’ll know, at last, what I knew as I sat under the Vanderbilt arch, watching the rain pour down on my last view of Yale until August: It’s not classes, or majors or even having right angles in your living spaces that matters. It’s not the quality of the food, or the location or — yes, I’m going to say it — even the endowment (though it pays to be well endowed). You’re not looking for the right mascot or the best colors, the most sports victories or the highest median SAT scores. What you want, for the next four years, is to be happy.
And you’ll be happy here.
Michelle Taylor is a senior in Davenport College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .