I’m a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. I like everything about it — red, pink, hearts, cards, flowers and especially chocolate. Perhaps on the surface, my fondness for Cupid’s holiday seems obvious: I have a boyfriend, and we are in love. But before you put down your newspaper in utter disgust at my saccharine prose, you should know that I am actually not a sentimental or emotional person. I didn’t hold onto my childhood dolls or stuffed animals; I don’t coo over newborn babies, and I recently told my parents to feel free to redecorate my room. My generally cool and rational outlook is quite Zen. Buddhism teaches that suffering comes from desire; with fewer attachments, I have fewer opportunities for suffering. But there is one exception, one particular lack of emotion that makes me uneasy: I don’t love Yale.
My insecurity about my (lack of) feelings for this University began the summer after my junior year of high school on my college tour. I planned an itinerary of eight schools in eight days. I believed that at one of the colleges, it would be love at first sight. Like a princess forced to choose among eight suitors, I would be able to pick my prince after a mere glance. Sadly, my fairy tale did not come true; I did not fall in love during the tour. I certainly liked Yale; I was impressed by it; I knew I would be happy going here. But I only preferred it marginally over Princeton — just enough to apply early decision.
I was not too discouraged by the fact that my relationship with Yale did not begin with love at first sight (that had not been the case with my boyfriend, either). I arrived on campus freshman year ready for the courtship to begin. And there certainly have been sparks over the years: watching the sun set over SSS … engaging in challenging conversation in the dining hall … receiving positive feedback on a research proposal … running up Prospect on the first day of spring. But I haven’t fallen head over heels for the University. Certainly I feel affection for Yale, but my feelings are not enough to constitute love. Love is ineffable and irrational. It has a secret ingredient that you can’t quite put your finger on; it is stronger than everyday fondness; it is passionate. And I wonder: Why don’t I love Yale?
Looking to my friends and fellow students for answers, I realize that my amicable, yet lukewarm, relationship with Yale is the exception. I see and hear that most of my peers love our University, and there are a variety of origins for this love. Some students, ranging from the tour guides, to the women’s basketball team, to members of the band, experience the love felt by those who serve the University. Often out of pre-existing affection, these individuals choose to devote their time to activities that glorify the University and, in doing so, reaffirm and increase their passion in a virtuous cycle. Other students love Yale in gratitude for the personal glory they believe the University has allowed them to achieve. These are the student body presidents, the Rhodes scholars, the heads of the Yale Political Union and the lucky few who get accepted to Yale’s own Law School. Still others love Yale because Yale is the institution that has allowed them to form strong friendships. For these individuals, Yale is actually a container for people they love. And finally, there is another group of students who, I hypothesize, would have fallen in love with any university they attended (except Harvard, of course).
Perhaps, I made decisions or mistakes that took me off the path toward love. Sophomore year I flirted with joining Glee Club, but I ultimately chose to devote my time to working for the News — a highlight of my college experience. Would I have been more likely to fall in love with Yale if I had spent my free time singing the University’s hymns rather than covering its daily happenings? I will never know. Would a different activity have led me to make more or better friends? I doubt it. But could a different extracurricular schedule have led me to cement stronger ties with all my friends? It’s quite likely. But perhaps, given my unsentimental and rationally detached nature, second-guessing my decisions is irrelevant. Maybe I was never going to love Yale (or any other school, for that matter). After all, there are few people and even fewer places that I love.
I wish I loved Yale. Especially now that we have reached a milestone in our relationship: Yale (or Jostens to be more specific) has offered me a ring — a class ring to be worn on the ring finger of my right hand to reflect my commitment and a love I do not possess. It is too big a step; I do not have strong enough feelings for the University at this point. And, as my second semester of my senior year winds down, I worry I never will. (Although there is always time for a Senior Week fling.)
Right now, I certainly like Yale; I like it enough to give it a Valentine. But sorting through my box of Charlie Brown cards, Yale gets the one with Linus on it.
Emily Fenner is a senior in Timothy Dwight College. Her column appears on alternate Fridays.