One of the dumbest things I’ve done at Yale is wait to become friends with people. We all have, or have had, our fair share of friend crushes, some debilitating in their intensity, some more casual and light-hearted. We see certain people as paragons of confidence, cleverness or cool, somehow set apart in some other realm of Yale that doesn’t seem to overlap our own. We put our peers on gleaming pedestals, overwhelmed by their talents or social tact, thinking that their accomplishments make ours look piddling in comparison (like stacking Hershey’s up against Lindt or that crappy kind of gummies against Fruit by the Foot).
The irony about pedestaling people (yes, I’m making it into a verb) is that everyone is doing it. The musician is awed by the athlete, the athlete by the actor, the actor by the campus journalist, the campus journalist by the political debater, the political debater by the musician. Frosh pedestal their frocos; frocos often pedestal their frosh, humbled by the integrity and resolve of those so young and new to Yale. Frosh on FOOT pedestal their FOOT leaders, FOOT leaders pedestal other FOOT leaders; teammates pedestal teammates, suitemates pedestal suitemates. At a place like Yale, it’s easy to fall into the mind-set of thinking that everyone around you is cooler than you are, that they have no need for new friends and that you ought to just stick within your own safe, steady and established circles.
The result? Everyone misses out. It’s incredible the number of people here who are mutually friend crushing without realizing it, who are standing on invisible pedestals built by the other. Not only is this extraordinarily dumb, but it’s also a bit of a tragedy. Time at Yale is limited, and yet we spend much of it admiring and crushing on our peers from afar. We’re held back and pulled down by shared insecurities that our accomplishments are insufficient or unimpressive, somehow unworthy of others. What a bunch of head cases! Everyone here has something going for them, something to offer and something to learn from. The endemic practice of pedestaling peers detracts from everyone’s experience instead of enhancing it.
I’ve felt the regrettable effects of pedestaling people at Yale my last two years in particular. I’ve played on a club sports team since freshman winter, and I’ve had intense friend crushes on all my fellow 2014 teammates since our first Peles — like, intense. But they all seemed to already be doing their own thing, grooving to another social and extracurricular beat, all set in the friend department. It wasn’t until the past year that I finally developed close one-on-one relationships with these other girls, and we actually talked about it — about how we thought the other person hadn’t “needed” us as a friend or seemed elevated in our eyes, somehow set apart.
I wish we’d cleared up this idiocy bred of insecurity earlier; I regret that I wasted time I could have spent growing to know these incredible individuals better. By senior year, none of us care about each other’s majors or campus activities, social groups or secret societies — we’re just looking for people with whom we can have good conversations, now and who-knows-when-and-where in the future. Yet for so long, we allowed immense amounts of mutual respect and admiration to serve as an inhibitor, rather than as an enabler. Maybe it was all a matter of time. Or maybe it was a matter of developing our own sense of self and confidence, both internally and within the community of Yale.
I think one of the special things about Yale is that it is a place infused with this ever-present sense of admiration — for our predecessors, for our professors, but above all, for our peers. I hope that never changes, because there is so much to admire. Yet I hope that admiration doesn’t hold people back, that it doesn’t allow us to place our classmates on pedestals, and that it doesn’t prevent us from taking mutual friend crushes and transforming them into lasting friendships.
Tao Tao Holmes is a senior in Branford College. Her columns run on alternate Fridays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .