Moving in for the second time is a strange experience. There’s no longer the blind dash of freshman year, the absolute, terrifying newness of everything, the flurry of names and faces and events. Coming to campus as a sophomore is different — it’s no longer an arrival, but a return. Entering the courtyard of a residential college, the memories of so many leisurely meals and afternoons lying out on the grass come rushing back. Instead of anxious, we are excited to reconnect with our friends and begin again the crazy, exhilarating whirlwind that is Yale.
Some things have changed this year, of course. There are no advising meetings, no consent workshops, no special convocations or masters’ receptions. We don’t have freshman counselors and big sibs and peer liaisons giving us guidance at every turn — and that’s okay. We don’t need that level of support; after all, we’ve done this before. We know what we’re doing.
But at the same time, we really don’t know it all. One year is far too short a time to figure out what college is all about, and sometimes, it seems as if even four years is hardly enough time for that.
This reality truly hit me a few days ago, as the panlists for clubs and activities came roaring back to life. Emails flooded my inbox from all of the extracurriculars that I’d committed myself to last year, and all of a sudden, my iCal turned into an impossible sea of multicolored, overlapping blobs. A wave of exhaustion came over me, as I remembered the long, frantic nights of last year.
Everyone knows that baby ducks need to be pushed out of their nest so that they can learn to fly. But I pity the duckling — in that first stomach-dropping moment of freefall, it can be hard to believe that you won’t just splat on the ground.
Last year, we were told to try everything: explore new fields! Discover your passions! Visit every table at the bazaar! Well, now we have. We overloaded our schedules with meetings and IM practices and rehearsals and that one extra activity that we weren’t really interested in but all of the successful people seemed to do it so we figured we might as well join, too. We found ourselves donning suits and blouses and going to conferences about leadership and enterprise and networking, although sometimes we weren’t quite sure what those terms even meant. We ran for positions, planned community service projects and designed web pages.
And some of it was amazing. But not all of it. And though we discovered much about our interests, we learned other things as well: the bone-deep fatigue of starting homework at 1 a.m. after a night full of meetings, the painful slowness of hours spent doing something that you don’t enjoy but thought would look good on your resume and now have an obligation to continue.
If freshman year was the time to explore, then sophomore year is the time to reevaluate.
A few nights ago, instead of heading out to those endless meetings, I spent the evening cleaning out my email inbox. From the unreasonably long list of extracurriculars I was somehow involved in, I chose a few that I would be willing to trek across campus in the pouring rain in order to attend. I also picked one or two new activities to try, ones that I wasn’t aware of last year or wasn’t bold enough to audition for. And then I took a deep breath and deleted everything else. Even the clubs that might have looked good on my resume, even the positions that I had flaunted proudly as proof of my place as a well-rounded and successful college student.
And yes, it was a bit unnerving. And yes, it went against most of what we had been told as freshmen. But you know what? It’s a new year. We’re not newbies anymore — we’ve had a year to explore and discover and exhaust ourselves. It was fun, and it was crazy, but now it is done. And now is the time to focus on what we love, and have faith that it will carry us aloft as we step into the air.
Emma Fallone is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.