Freshman, sophomores and juniors: Stop reading now. (Maybe move to River’s column?)
As a second-semester senior, with four months before my Yale ID cuts off access to every building I care about, I’ve been fumbling around with the idea of compartmentalizing my limited time (last I checked, 123 days and 23 hours). Shopping period has passed faster than ever, and as a result, mundane events, like buying a Tyco course packet, playing C-hoops against Saybrook and stumbling into SigEp have suddenly taken on a tempered sentimentality. I’m about to face a series of “lasts”: last course schedule signing, last e-mail from Ronnell Higgins, the last-chance dance. I used to think that this last semester would evoke emotional reverberations: melancholy, maybe even a wizened pensiveness. But in reality, I’m feeling more of an, “Oh, so this is how It feels like” kind of whiplash. I won’t miss any one small event, but when I’m vulnerable, the aggregation of moments sometimes knocks me back; I realize a discrete part of my life is going to end.
There’s also an equal and opposite reaction: I have a compulsion to binge on the need-to-do’s that Yalies have been conquering for years: steam tunnels, the mounting of Harkness, naked parties, tray sledding and unlocking of the brain room (though I might have missed that boat). But then I realize these are fleeting experiences: glimpses of levity, a shoulder-brush with stimulation, a “what’s up” with vanity that, while Yale-unique, will be nothing more than rusty social currency 20 years from now. Without the right people along for the ride, these inimitable outings can’t unearth college’s core: forging the social bonds that carry through an entire lifetime.
These bonds are constructed by the High Quality Moments: a tete-a-tete on La-Z-Boy chairs at 2 a.m., a chance encounter-cum-long-lost-soul-mate connection, a wink or wave that penetrates the waxy peel of friendship. I draw an invisible gossamer line from myself to every single person I have a relationship with — peers and professors — and think about the quiet, powerful fact that I can, at any moment, give it a little tug. Yale helps me solve friendship’s proximity issue; time in the company of friends, then, is by far the easiest way for me to double down on my strengths. And as always, I attempt (mostly unsuccessfully) to be passionate, purposeful and consequential.
Living as a second-semester senior also begets an omnipresent release. I — we — don’t compromise my classes anymore: All tend to unify, or enlighten, or scream so effing loudly I simply have to show up to lecture to see what the hullaballoo is about. Sometimes, when I return to my entryway, I’ll watch someone else play Starcraft 2 for an hour, shoving that sense of obligation to work into a back alley of the brain. I’ve given myself permission to be taken by the fact that I’m not doing anything — and for the first time, I’m overwhelmed by how authentic it feels.
And some part of me is also excited to graduate. Four years is sort of a natural saturation point: Inevitability has calmly made its way to my right ear and whispered to take my talents to South Beach — or Los Angeles, or the Philippines. While uncertainty and trepidation uncannily yokes itself to every departure I make, I realize too that Yale is inherently preparation for the real world. After 32 classes, I’ve an urge to satiate my curiosity of the post-college years, which, if you think about it, is simply a cousin of my eagerness towards Yale on Day One, when I walked through Phelps Gate, pots and recycling bins banging. It’s time for me to cede one of the 1,330-plus seats in the Class of 2011 to the Class of 2015; they’re probably the only students capable of injecting the passion and enthusiasm and wild-eyed wonder that I’ve let deteriorate since I came in as a Yale-addled freshmen.
I don’t know how to “suck the marrow” out of my last semester here. I mean, seriously — I’m using my limited time left to write about how I don’t know how to use my limited time left (confused? My editors were too). But the key might be to stop being so proactive. Instead of awkwardly gluing together little broken bonds, or attempting to leave Yale with one final little flourish, maybe what I really need to do is relax, and trust that when the right moment comes, my four years of experience will help me seize that last, bright opportunity.
Peter Lu is a senior in Berkeley College.