It’s worse than senioritis or the hypochondriacal sophomore slump. It’s not every senior’s worse nightmare the real world. It’s the ambitious early applicant’s worst nightmare, and the fate of seniors all across campus these days: the crisis of Yale identity.
If you’re a freshman, you probably don’t quite get it yet, unless you’re advanced. Look at me: here I am in my last year at Yale and I never did take “Game Theory,” or more esoteric classes like “Archaeological Ceramics I” or “Philosophy.” The sheer number of courses here means I have little in common with my fellow Yalies academically. Extracurricularly as well. Way back when, I was a member of the Yale College Student Union. Heard of that? There are so many organizations on this campus I probably haven’t heard of your pet project either. There was a time when graduating from Yale meant a few givens: you were prepared for life among the elite of the elite, and well-versed in Homer and the Bible to boot (oh, right, and white, male and Protestant oops!).
Lots of student organizations, the News included, dispense with their superstars early in senior year. We all want to believe that it’s because seniors have senior essays to write and job applications to fill out. Well I can tell you right now that I spend a lot more time thinking about next week’s episode of “Joey” (0.25 sec.) than I do thinking about said essay (approximately 0.0003 sec.). We’re burnt out, that’s why we get kicked out. We’re old and gray and ready for our geriatric memberships to Mory’s. And we’re no longer fresh-faced enough to believe that we truly understand what we’re doing.
So what does it mean to be a daughter of Eli? Obviously, I don’t know. So I turned to the place where all elitist Ivy-educated young adults find the truth: the bathroom. Specifically, the first-floor women’s bathroom in Becton. This stall, for reasons I will never understand given Yalies propensity to enjoy quotes and talking whenever possible is one of the few at Yale to be covered in graffiti. As I was too tired from my psychotic biochemistry laboratory to think for myself, I thought: this is the place! A representative cross-section of Yalies tells me what I should think! It is here that I will learn my purpose!
This amalgam of wisdom nuggets is beyond equal in conjuring up the picture of Yalie X. You’ve got the token foreign language quote — in Spanish, because as one of my former suitemates will tell you, everyone here speaks Spanish. You’ve also got the token quote from a Dave-Matthews-like-but-slightly-less-famous-and-therefore-cooler band, Ben Harper this time: “You put the happy in my ness/You put the good times into my fun.” Ben Harper was at my first Spring Fling and he didn’t put much fun into my happiness. You have the incomprehensible call to arms: Hate intolerance? Misogyny? Communicate refusals to participate. And though it is theoretically a female-oriented bathroom, even Matt is represented, although he has surprisingly girlie handwriting.
Some quotes were, of course, more snobby in their nature (and questionable in their grammar). “Against stupidity even the Gods struggle in vain.” “One must open one’s heart to happiness and be prepared to let go and give themselves completely before true love can even be sought.” Others offered advice: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.” And my favorite, the one I initially thought would be my saving grace: “The God of the College Experience: Learn, Grow, Find Yourself and Live for the nights you don’t remember with the friends you never forget.” I thought it would be helpful but: 1) Above, it says not to find myself, but to create myself. This is contradictory. Yalies are good at contradicting themselves, but really, I need some advice, people! 2) I don’t appreciate the semantics. If I am living with the friends while I don’t remember the nights, it is very easy to never forget the friends because they are right there living with me.
And of course, you had the token Yalie cynicism: in response to a comment noting that it was interesting to find such philosophy and poetry in a Group IV bathroom stall, one charming person wrote: “And that it would all be so pithy.” Indeed, why is everything we say so pithy? Take this column, for instance: it isn’t even creative. Donald Trump could tell you that the best place to find inspiration is in the bathroom. I understood all of this, and I caught the Yale stereotypes. But we aren’t all stereotypes, are we? We’ve been working for 20-odd years to avoid that! Seriously, though, what am I doing here? I have no idea what being a Yalie means anymore.
Is it me? Did I mess up? Am I really a bastard child of Eli and his vaguely weird sister-in-law?
I have hung up a copy of all these quotes on my wall, hoping that some day they will speak to me. Until then, I guess I’ll have to remain that child whose pictures never appear in the photo album. On my wall, someone wrote: “Thanks everyone for making Becton Stall #1 such a pleasurable experience.” I suppose I could end here on this pleasant note, but that’s not my style. And it would be patently false. It was not pleasurable! The only part I enjoyed was the joke ending with “Holy crap! A talking muffin.” Beyond that, I’m more confused than ever. If you’re wondering about the joke, go and read it for yourself, lazy. Maybe you’ll find some answers; if you do, call me. We only have seven months to figure this all out.
Jessamyn Blau is a senior in Morse College. Her column appears on alternate Fridays.