My favorite place at Yale is…

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Waiting for Friday

// by Kalli Angel

Whenever that dark cloud of stress starts to gather on the horizon, I know that I just have to make it to Friday.

Each Friday afternoon I travel with a handful of undergrads to a wooded pond at the Yale Outdoors Center forty miles east of campus. For a few hours I leave behind the sirens, the car horns and the carillon and just listen to country music and the wind tumbling through the maple leaves. And then, at last, each Friday afternoon I shoulder my Beretta, take a deep breath and call for the clay.

It took a long time to perfect the art of telling people at Yale that I shoot guns. When comparing extracurriculars with my new friends as a freshman, I would say, “I’m on the skeet team.” But inevitably my roommate or classmate or the guy I was grinding with at a party would say, “Cool! I love skiing, but I’m not very good.”

“No,” I would have to say. “I mean that I shoot.”

“Digital or film?” they would say.

“No!” I would finally shout through the dining hall chatter or over Iyaz blaring on the dance floor. “Guns! I shoot shotguns!”

After they took a moment to get over their shock (my dance partners especially), they would say, without fail, “That must be really good for stress.”

And they were right, but never for the reasons they thought. Because what is so calming about shooting is not the loud noises and the smell of gunpowder and the broken bits of orange clay. It’s not the destruction or the power.

It’s that to do it well I have to think about nothing. Not about my email. Not about my take-home exam. Not about the internship I didn’t get or the job I have to apply for. Not about what I’m going to wear to Toad’s that night.

There’s only me and that spinning orange disk against a crisp blue sky. And when I do it right, there’s a bang and a rain of neon fragments. I gaze out over my barrel each time after I pull the trigger – at the shimmering water and the leaves starting to change color on the opposite shore – and I feel a moment of intense peace.

Then the sun begins to set and I pack up my gun and we pile back into the cars and I start waiting again for Friday.

My little corner of the world

// by Arielle Stambler

My favorite place at Yale can now only be accessed through memory, so pardon me if I romanticize it. If only I were a peer liaison or a froco, I could go back and see how it has changed. But alas, the swipe-access doors of Durfee are closed to me forever.

My freshman-year double in Durfee was overwhelmingly purple and teal. Purple because I had decided in second grade that that was slightly girlier than blue and slightly less girly than pink and so should be my choice for favorite color. Teal because everything at Pottery Barn is teal. The yellow Target poster of Dwight Schrute’s life-size head and his top seven best quotes on “The Office” clashed with those colors but it was too important to me to not put up.

That purple and teal bed shoved into the corner between my wall and my desk supported my ever-so-slight heartache at realizing that life as I had known it ended when my parents left me to my own devices the Sunday of Move-In Weekend. The first fact I knew concretely was that the goodbyes to home — those done in person, over the phone, and over Skype on my padded mattress — would only get more frequent from here on out. Life was changing from a staid, square existence as a “student” and “daughter” into a turbulent rollercoaster ride as a “more specialized student,” “confidante,” “roommate” and other new identities. In that room, my world turned into a mess of sticky floors, diminished privacy, and ear-shattering bass radiating at an impressively constant rate through the ceiling from the suite above.

But it also turned into much, much more. On my roommate’s side was a windowsill big enough for one person to sit on. The window had no screens, so on particularly warm fall days, I would sit on that sill, open the window and breathe in the fresh air. It felt so much more precious all the way up on the fourth floor. Below me a scene straight out of Yale’s viewbook would be playing out: happy gaggles of freshmen playing Frisbee, sitting under trees, reading on picnic blankets, talking on benches — all as the New Haven sun cast a brilliant autumn glow on the variegated leaves speckling the still (miraculously) green grass. It sounds Arcadian, but anyone who has experienced freshman fall on Old Campus knows that this description is not too romanticized. The scene inspired me with hope — hope that, although my four-cornered world was changing in new ways, it would someday settle as a mature entity I could be pleased with. In other words, it struck me that it might all work out just fine.

My dad liked to call my side of the room my “little corner of the world.” That’s what it was, but, two years later, I understand that it was also my little entrance into a new world, a world at times daunting and at times exhilarating but always, always something worthwhile.

Dancing at the Women’s Table

// by Yanan Wang

It was a night in late spring, just at the end of exam period, when my friend Caroline and I bought takeout from Gheav and ate it on the Women’s Table. We sat on the small ledge where the sphere of the fountain meets the dry hardness of the black platform. We had ventured to East Rock earlier that day, gotten lost, and found a small cabin in the woods where an old woman kept a vegetable garden and three large dogs. As we ate, we commented on how nice the crisp evening air felt against our sunned skin, how strange it was that freshman year was over, how beautiful the reflection of Sterling Library looked on the table.

When architect Maya Lin arrived at Yale as an undergraduate in 1977, she was a part of the University’s ninth class of women. And while the ethnic and sexual makeup of the faculty was changing by the 1980s, I can only imagine the fears and uncertainties Lin suffered alongside her female classmates, whose presence at the institution had been unwelcome a mere decade earlier. The women I’ve met here are equal parts intelligent and audacious, and it chills me to think that there was a time when the administration believed otherwise. That’s why Lin later designed the Women’s Table, I guess — to remind us that injustices linger not too far behind.

I don’t remember everything that Caroline and I talked about that night, but I do remember feeling content. There were no more final exams and papers to worry about, and the summer loomed joyously: four months seemed to me then an endless span of time. Time to read all of the books I hadn’t touched during the school year, time to reacquaint myself with childhood friends, and time to think.

The act of thinking wasn’t what the women before me were denied from, but rather everything that it should entail. They didn’t have a forum in which to share their thoughts, and what are thoughts if they are not heard and enriched by others? My English professor, Margaret Homans, told the News that she recalls being one of three women in a seminar filled with “ferocious” boys. “It was still the era of the ‘1,000 male leaders,’” she said, “and at that time I did not have a feminine vocabulary to express my unease.”

Now Professor Homans teaches “Feminist and Queer Theory,” a testament to just how far we have come and how far we have yet to go.

One of the first nights of this semester, my friends and I wandered our way to the Women’s Table. We had come from one of those joint-suite birthday parties where there is little room to breathe, let alone to dance. Cross Campus seemed a far better alternative, with its couples too engrossed in one another to notice that there were three sophomores blasting Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” from their iPhones. We danced, and while we danced, we stepped on all the zeroes that circled the edge of the table, on all the severe, old men who had once told us “no.”

Solace in a bathroom

// by Joy Shan

In the thick of exams to take and papers to write and friends to see and emails to send, a special place to go and unwind can be a valuable thing. When my friends and I talk about the places we go to find peace on campus, I hear of mystical places. Of hidden libraries that require lock picks to access, of candlelit meditation sessions in Battell Chapel and of rooftops with nighttime views of New Haven. When it is my turn to share my place to seek calm, I falter. Sadly, mine is about as unglamorous as it gets -— the family bathroom in the basement of Calhoun College.

Do not get me wrong — the beauty of Yale’s campus has not been wasted on me. I recognize the architectural beauty around me as well as anyone else, but this bathroom still has a special place in my heart. During my very first midterm season as a college freshman, this bathroom was where I sought solace during my very first midterm-induced stroke of panic. It is private, it is roomy. There is a mirror that you can stare into as you chant words of encouragement to yourself (or as you scold yourself for not dropping that math class). There is a sink with a faucet, perfect if you are one of those people who finds the sound of running water comforting. The temporary lack of phone reception will block the temptation to check your ever-growing amount of new text messages and emails. The fact that it is a family bathroom means you don’t have to worry about people coming in to wash their hands and then wondering what you are doing. Yes, the wallpaper in the basement is orange, but the lighting is pleasant and there is plenty of room to pace. Best of all, the traffic to use this bathroom is pretty light, so it is usually available in my hours of need (here is where someone could make a joke out of the saying “When you gotta go, you gotta go,” but I’ll refrain). Hopefully this state is not jeopardized by my disclosing of this information.

But chances are, the bathroom will remain vacant. The beauty of these Quiet Zones is that they are individualized to the user. Be it a particular desk in the Sterling stacks or the family bathroom in a college basement, the place’s familiarity is what is comforting. Arriving at a new place and experiencing its new set of sights, sounds, and stimulations, a routine or just something constant can be a reminder that not all will be swept up in turbulence. And it just so happened that, for me, this is a 7’ x 4’ room with a toilet and a sink.

Imperfection in a knot garden

// by Baobao Zhang

When I tell my friends about the hedge maze behind the School of Management, they imagine an English garden trimmed by a fastidious maintenance crew year round. Instead, they find a short, scraggy arrangement of shrubs. The hedge maze attached to Skinner House (now the International Center for Finance) is not even a proper hedge maze. It is a “knot garden,” a diminutive cousin. The shrubbery, no more than two feet tall, form two squares one inside another. A circular patch of grass forms the knot garden’s center. Not exactly the most impressive hedge display.

But to me, just a summer ago, the knot garden seemed perfect. After working five-hour shifts scanning books in a dingy corner of Rosenkranz Hall, I would nap in the knot garden. The grass beneath me felt like a wool blanket, warm and scratchy. As I watched the clouds above, I imagined that’s what Tom Sawyer or Alice’s imaginary universe are like: a time and place outside of adult responsibilities and concerns. Or I imagined it was like Rupert Brooke’s Grantchester Meadow, where one, “flower-lulled in sleepy grass,” can “Hear the cool lapse of housrs pass, / Until the centuries blend and blur.” In the knot garden, I felt a contentment I had never enjoyed at Yale before.

Then school began. Although I tried to nap or read in the knot garden between classes, the place lost its appeal. (Maybe it was the quizzical stares from SOM students who passed by.) When summer turned into autumn, the grass, shrubbery, and flowers yellowed. I put on a jacket and hurried back to my dorm room immediately after each class. Falling leaves buried the knot garden; homework buried me. Spring brought a scattering of wildflowers to the knot garden. For a while, I continued my summertime ritual of napping there on afternoons. Blowing on dandelions, I’d daydream about the short stories I planned to write. Then one week in late April, three full days of rain turned the knot garden into a trench. Bits of dead dandelions protrudes from the mud and grass like skeleton fingers. I turned away in disgust.

Nothing seems perfect at Yale, even my favorite place on campus. Over the summer, while studying abroad at Cambridge University, I read the poetry of the WWI poets for my history class. While I wanted to enjoy Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sasson, again and again, I returned to Brooke. Brooke’s England was “Washed by rivers, blest by suns of home” — a paradise worthy of young men spilling their blood in foreign fields. But he died of an infection in 1915 on his way to the Gallipoli Campaign, without witnessing the horrors of Anzac Cove. I envy Brooke for his unwavering love for a place because I never can. Because we, our generation — cynical and lost and anxious — can never say “For Country, For Country, For Yale” with full conviction nor enjoy our bright college years without thinking about the uncertain future ahead.

Thirty-seven

// by Jordi Gassó

“What house is this?” he asked me.

“What do you mean?”

“What group lives here? An improv troupe? Crew team?”

I am confused. Why should a place have a name, an identity? Why not just an address? 37 Lynwood Place. 37 for short.

Six housemates, six bedrooms, four floors, two kitchens, one living room, one basement. A dwelling of happenings. A veritable mice problem. A decoration project in progress. A landlord from hell (lookin’ at you, Pike International). All in all, a home. My home. Our home.

Located on the first floor, my room enjoys its own bathroom and gargantuan closet. I moved in this semester after returning from a gap year, and I still need to buy my posters, put up the usual tchotchkes, paint the room “Sparrow” — that’s lingo for light grey. The place is chaos, for now. Two different colors of fitted sheets currently cover the queen size bed. I need to Swiffer at some point. Despite its ragtag state, the space is perfect. It is my own, it belongs to me. My library weenie bin, my bunker, my haven in New Haven.

Then I can step outside, out to partake in our Wednesday night traditions, or to talk about the origin of language with Max, or to dice the potatoes for family dinner. We chew the fat, we dance, we mix cocktails, we joke about poop. We make plans that are carried out — trips to Trader Joe’s! — or that never come to fruition — still waiting for that Aaliyah shrine. No worries though: at least for this month, our patron saint is Kate Bush.

Perhaps we do have a shared singularity, a common denominator. For starters, the same roof. A fondness for Wine, Wenzels and Words. An aversion to tufthunters. A fascination with “Hoarders.” A love of porch stooping. 37 is a metonym, and the answer to the original question.

“Oh. Um, it’s 37 Lynwood. It’s the friends’ house!”

The importance of pathways

// by Amanda Shadiack

I always leave my room exactly two minutes later than I should, no matter where I’m going. It’s fine, I reason, since I really do walk quite quickly. I can finish this episode of Modern Family. I can skim the last six pages of my reading.

They used to be the objects of my loathing, the pathways here. The uneven flagstone alleys and the stained sidewalks tripped me up and kept me from getting from one monumentally important place to another. I’m a busy lady. (Kind of.) I have things to do. (Kind of.)

You might have tried to convince me that the scenery made those rushed, tedious walks worth it, or maybe you would have argued that what matters is the journey, not the destination. I would have scoffed discourteously.

But last week, I reevaluated why I despised these pathways so much.

For the first time in a long time, I gave myself adequate time to get from the fifth floor of Davenport to the second floor of WLH: I set out at 8:45 a.m. for a 9 a.m. seminar. Maybe the setting of my epiphany could have been more picturesque than trying to dodge a courier van as I jaywalked across Elm Street and skirting a group of tourists outside of Sterling. Mornings in New Haven are busy, I thought absently, dipping my fingers past the water’s surface on the Women’s Table. But my sleep-addled brain didn’t have much of a place to go from there.

Awkwardly, I lunged down the lengths of the dreadfully spaced steps to Cross Campus, and that was when the doubts crept in.

Because I had left ten minutes early, because I wasn’t rushing somewhere, because the too-long or too-short steps (I can never figure out which it is) forced me to slow down, the normal frantic thoughts assessing where I’d just been and anticipating where I was going were absent. Without those clogging up the works, I was at the mercy of my masochistic subconscious, which took the opportunity to remind me of my every insecurity and confusion. I took a shallow breath and tried to keep the questions nagging at my every word and deed at bay.

In that moment I was finally aware of why I spent so much time running on and away from the paths and sidewalks of Yale. Being in transit and being without consuming thoughts of what happened back there and how late I’m going to be getting here allow me the chance to second-guess myself, and I’m terrified of those moments and terrified of maybe, possibly coming to the conclusion that I’ve been wrong about this, that, everything.

But when I felt myself breathing easier a moment later, having dispelled all of the vague and the specific doubts, I think I knew the importance of that chance for introspection. We all work really hard around here to make it seem like we know what we’re doing and where we’re going.

Maybe I need those pathways and those minutes of just being in transit to embrace and decode those doubts, and really make sure I’m going the right way. (I’ll still probably leave two minutes too late, anyway.)

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