“Bright college years, with pleasure rife,
The shortest, gladdest years of life”
Our alma mater brings tears to my eyes, sweet memories of laughter, emotional conversations, late-night debates about human nature and comfort from friends. I’m about to leave this place — a place that has helped form some of my most precious relationships — but to be completely honest, the song’s lyrics do not hold true for me. I hope to God these are neither the shortest nor the gladdest years. College has been an uphill battle, to the point that I am getting the words, “Never give in!” engraved on the inside of my class ring, words used to uplift and inspire a bruised and battered nation in wartime. I am proud to be a Yalie, and I am so grateful for every challenge, victory and defeat I’ve experienced here, but I reject the premise that these are going to be the best years of my life. They cannot and will not be the best. I refuse to let my identity as a Yale graduate be the defining characteristic about myself even for a second.
I know myself; I’m lazy and kind of a scaredy-cat. It would be so easy to move to New York and hang out with Yale people for the rest of my days. Meeting new people is hard. But you know what? I hate rodents with all the revulsion of a 18th-century French aristocrat walking through choleric London, and I literally feel the anxiety tense my shoulders the moment I step off the Metro-North. I would be miserable. I would have a built-in community, sure, but I would be profoundly unhappy.
Relying on Yale to provide all of the employment and camaraderie I could possibly need for the rest of my life sounds so easy, and not growing up sounds so ideal — it removes the uncertainties I have after May. There is a Yale community in every corner of the globe joined by common experiences and love for this place. In LAX before Camp Yale freshman year, a man approached me in the airport and asked about my Yale sweatshirt. I told him that I was a freshman and he told me that he was Branford something-in-the-’70s and, “Welcome.” How beautiful is that? We all have a built-in community almost anywhere we go. It’s such a comfort in a lot of ways, but it is also extremely limiting. We are more than our collective experiences at this institution, and to rely on the Yale banner to provide community prevents us from forging our own paths, which is exactly what maturity means to me. So in the second-semester senior tradition, I will try and collect as many memorable moments as possible, including writing this article while two of my favorite people in the world sing Jewel in the background off-key, but I cannot pretend to be unhappy about graduating, forging a life outside of this claustrophobic bubble.
Still, every time I think about not having to come back next year, I want to skip and jump and jump and laugh. Oh joy! I will have to pay for my own everything next year, isn’t that exciting? All of the people out there to meet, the ideas not yet encountered, the stories I haven’t heard. Nothing seems more exciting than to get lost in the chaos of the world and then create a haven within it. For all the fears and reservations I have about not seeing the people I love with all of my heart, I am overcome with a sense of relief about not having to come back to New Haven, and not having to be anywhere in particular, really.
Yale, I love you, I really do, but I have had my heart broken so many times because of you, had so many panic attacks because of you, felt the highest highs and the lowest lows, all because of you. I am ready to create my own community and no longer let the lifestyle, beliefs, motivations and expectations of this community influence my opinion of myself and others. (I’ve become rather snobbish in my years here.) Peace be upon you, I wish ye well, I’ll send you a check when I can, but seriously goodbye, farewell, until we meet again (in 10 years at the reunion).