After 1,172 days at Yale University, it’s hard not to have a secret hiding spot. Mine is a 3-foot by 3-foot square of granite on the northern edge of Beinecke Plaza, tucked in next to a sheer façade of Vermont marble. When I’m there, coarse winds blow from Cross Campus and chill my bones; the stars, unless obscured by a pack of clouds, dangle in the open air; and sometimes, a gaggle of teenagers on skateboards thunder past where I’m sitting, doing ollies on top of benches. No Yalie has ever interrupted me.
Anywhere else, people interrupt. My room doesn’t have a lock; the libraries teem with fallow conversation; and even in class, my professors (for some reason) keep waking me up. My hiding spot is the only place where I can really, truly, think. Last week, I sat in my square and thought of how I would live Yale a second time, given another chance. The answer was obvious: more Free, more Love, more Free Love.
I heard it first from a recent Yale alum, that strange breed of creature who, unable to relive college, resorts to reimagining an unalterable past. He wasn’t quite sure what free love was; I think he mentioned something about debauchery and spontaneity. I look at it a bit differently.
Yale is free. On an academic level, over 2,000 courses, in over 78 majors, are beholden to our choices during shopping period. On a social level, more than 300 extracurriculars allow us to knock heads (and socks) with a sub-section of 5,300 undergraduates. But on the temporal level, there is a freedom available at Yale — skipping classes, eating two-hour lunches, and hopping on the next train to New York — that will never come this easily to most of us ever again. Take it from someone who has worked in corporate America: not being at Yale sucks. Our temporal freedom is the blessing we internalize too fast, obscured by a culture of double-booked Google calendar appointments every hour of every day. Everyone realizes this when they graduate, but let’s take a second to think about it now: Yale is free, and it will never be this readily available again.
Yale is also love. I once asked a friend how he would do senior year differently. He said he wished he told his friends how he really felt about them. A year after graduation, he had tried to express words previously left unspoken; they sounded dusty and affected. Time does that: the feeling of relationships fade, awash in new stimuli. Our love literally becomes lost. Once 2011 (and in time,’12, ’13, and ’14) is scattered across America and the world (although the wind seems to blow particularly strongly towards New York), the environments of our current friendships — being roomies, meeting on the IM fields for razzle-dazzle football, taking notes in Political Philosophy — will cease to exist. We’ll move on, while our foundations stay at Yale. Sometimes, friendships survive without their base. Sometimes, they don’t. If and when you ever find yourself vacillating over the right moment to tell someone what they mean to you, do it now.
In 27 weeks, when I graduate from Yale College, I’m going to leave my hiding spot behind. My friendships will stay behind, too — not all of them, but enough so that months later, when I come home from work at 2 a.m. and sign onto Facebook, I’ll scan through the current statuses of former Berkeleyites and feel a tinge of regret and a dollop of nostalgia that at Yale, I didn’t do more of what I wanted or needed to do. 27 weeks, and only one thought: free love, baby.
Peter Lu is a senior in Berkeley College.