In Support of Irreverence

As they toil and tweet alongside other interns, some Yalies learn about exotic parts of the world. They might grasp new ideas or engage with different ways of thinking. They’ve even been known to discover the kind of romantic connection that lasts a lifetime or, like, some random collection of nights. What I gleaned from my favorite intern was a simple phrase that, on this campus, is beyond apt.

As she watched the Harvard intern slink in, Sperrys and deep drawl at the ready, my chum turned to me and said, “He’s cute, yeah. But he looks like he thinks his shit don’t stink.”

My innocent little ears perked up. My brain questioned that collection of words for a length of time that’s far too embarrassing to share. Then it clicked — and a new age dawned.

A lotta people on this campus think their shit don’t stink. This unfortunate trait probably, on some level, helped propel them here. It’s definitely the product of the many laurels they’ve gathered and the praise they’ve reaped from various corners, not least Yale admissions. Whether they’re students or faculty members we’re supposed to absolutely piss ourselves in the presence of, they (and probably yours truly) are fairly certain that their perspective, journey and work ethic leave them leagues ahead of the pack.

But here’s some real talk: their shit stinks.

Looking to hierarchies in organizations and departments, we’re all too prone to feel inadequate and unworthy, desperate to prostrate ourselves before higher beings for a scrap of affection. It can happen during shopping, as we hear peer after peer laud this one incredible professor who’s amazing beyond all human comprehension. It can happen when we look at upperclassmen who just get everything and must lead absolutely charmed lives.

Often, just because we have some pretty fantastic people around, we find a Yalie whose talent and generally fantastic nature make some deference her due. Kudos to her! Here’s hoping she keeps on keeping on, giving us even more to admire.

In the meantime, though, we need to acknowledge that each of these highly accomplished biddies is literally just another person. It’s a weird thing to say, I know. But the head of your organization — as terrifying in his wrath as he is brilliant in his sales pitch — probably slipped on the ice and looked really dumb once. I’m sure the Kagans, Blooms and McChrystals of this campus have too. I’d wager one time they even made a social faux pas (don’t shoot the messenger, guys). So when you next feel compelled to rave about them, remember their humanity. Remember that they are just as awkward as you, and probably sometimes hate how their body looks. So don’t let the pressure of getting into that seminar or proving how committed you are to that organization destroy your sense of self. That’s what you’re left with, hours or days or months down the line, once your deity moves on.

You got admitted here for a bunch of reasons. One of them, yes, was your ability to work within structures and recognize authority and talent. That’s great! But another one was your determination to go deeper, to question, to think. Now, I’m not saying that you should apply those considerable skills to considering human waste (unless you’re a scientist and stuff). Take them, look at the people around you — and recognize that their egos are constructs you build up just as much as they do. It’s time to tone them down a tad. Realistically, you know their shit stinks.

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