We all have expectations of Yale. High grades, good friends, brilliant professors. Perhaps we even expect, during our time here, to become a certain person, an ideal version of ourselves.
Last week I, along with 1,355 other freshmen, arrived on campus with unbounded expectations. In the months since our acceptances, we’ve collectively spent thousands of hours daydreaming, pondering, imagining what Yale might be, setting expectations both for this place and for ourselves.
I suggest that we drop these expectations.
Two short weeks in, we may still be reveling in Yale’s brilliance, in the excitement of shopping classes, meeting new people and living our lives as near-adults. In these first weeks, we allow the expectations of life-changing classes, beautiful friendships and idyllic college life to drift to the backs of our minds, our internal deadlines still far off in our Yale careers. But as the long, warm summer days spent playing Frisbee on Old Campus give way to the dark of winter and long nights spent in Bass, the deadlines for these expectations will come into sharper focus, drawing nearer and nearer.
Some of us may have already noticed this. At this point, most of us have probably shopped at least one bad class. A suitemate may have come back late Saturday night and vomited, adding cracks to our increasingly fragile perception of Yale as perfect.
Later, our expectations will shatter and come crashing down around us. Perhaps it will be after the first failed test, the first moment of pure exhaustion or the first broken friendship. Regardless of what or when it is, there will come a moment in which our expectations, which we built so thoroughly through spring and summer, will cease to be expectations and instead become failures.
It is here that the real danger lies, because it is precisely at this moment that Yale will cease to be what it is meant to be, a place of excitement, learning and growth. It is at this moment that Yale will no longer be something perpetually fresh and filled with a sense of mystery and wonder and will instead become something mundane and old — in essence, just another place.
We, the class of 2016, are lucky to be here. There are perhaps thousands of others equally deserving of our places. But, by some luck of the sorting hat, we wound up here. And because we are lucky, we have a responsibility to give to and take from this place all that can be given and all that can be taken. But we cannot do it if we let unfulfilled expectations transform Yale from the wonder with which we behold it in the first weeks to just another school or just another collection of buildings.
Rather, if we dive into Yale without fear, trepidation or expectations, we might just find that we will continue to make Yale a place of perpetual thrills for the next four years because we have nothing to be disappointed by and nothing to lose. We might never lose the sense of wonder and unexplored mystery that drew us here. Only then might we give all we have to give and take all Yale has to offer, making our time here truly worthwhile.
Matthew Lloyd-Thomas is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.