The things that stick out most to me about this first semester are surprising. For some reason beyond my understanding, my mind has chosen to cling to two bizarre images: a shirt and a diving board.
Last week I saw someone wearing a shirt that just said, “CHECK YOUR SHIT.” Eloquence. While at first I thought little of it, in retrospect I have so, so many questions for this young man. In the moment, I wrote it off. Like most people, I thought that this shirt, and probably this kid, was a bit obnoxious, maybe even a tad arrogant. Now, I’m not going to advocate wearing aggressive shirts, or anything close to that, but the message did catch me off guard.
When I saw the shirt, it was one of those gloomy days, where the ground is wet after a less-than-cheerful “wintry mix,” and it looks like the sky is just a lighter version of the sidewalk. I was leaving the post office, heading back to L-Dub, when I saw the compassionate sign this young man had chosen to strap to his chest. It didn’t resonate immediately. In fact, I remember thinking to myself, resigned and amused, “really?”
I went on with my life as did, probably, everyone else who saw this kid. However, the longer time went on, the more questions seemed to spring forth like when you dissect a joke. Is he a life coach? Was he just trying to mess with the Yale population? Are the people in his life just absolute calamities? And yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was some kind of unknowing genius to it.
Another memorable moment, looking back as most freshmen are at this point in the year, is Master Chun’s address to the Berkeley freshmen. After brand-dropping his job at Nike, Master Chun showed us all a commercial that he had helped design. It was this adorable kid at the edge of a diving board. “Greatness is scary,” the narrator was paternally soothing. “Until… it isn’t.” Like the shirt, I glossed over this gem too. I saw it as yet another piece of advice on how to solve the puzzle of living here. I went to high school, I thought, I’m at Yale. Obviously I know that I need to sleep (sometimes), do my work, and see my friends.
No one can say that his or her first semester here was similar to life at home or at school. Every weekend I am able to experience some incredible performance or show by talented friends and peers. I live and eat in lots of different castles. New Haven traffic is essentially anarchy, where there are times when everyone’s light is inexplicably red. But despite all of this, I still watch an episode of TV before falling asleep. I still don’t read as much as I could or should. I still find myself complaining with friends, just because it’s something to do, something to say.
This past summer and spring I imagined with tons of other freshmen that I would be shaped into something better, my rough edges smoothed out. Not in the Disney, idealistic I-want-to-be-all-that-I-can-be sense, but do we all not want to have as much control over our actions as possible? There are habits and facets of my life I let go untested just because I always have. In short, I still need to check my shit, and jump off the diving board. Stop watching re-runs of The Office, Jake. Do the reading that you need to instead of getting a Blue State to “clear your head.” That doesn’t mean bury your head in the sands of work, and if something makes you happy, do it. If you can and really should get to sleep an hour earlier, why wouldn’t you? The end of this first semester makes me so grateful for this new setting that I wonder if I should ever stop trimming what I want clipped.