Remember your own Decision Day, and the subsequent blur of senior year? Remember how shocked and disbelieving and then, finally, ecstatic you were when you heard the singing bulldog? Remember when the Facebook group for your class wasn’t just advertisements or demands for lost cellphones but instead a collection of soon-to-be Yalies bubbling with excitement and anticipation? Remember how nice everyone was?
Today is Decision Day, and soon, we’ll be inviting a bunch of new prefrosh into our dorms. We’ll gush about how Yale is literally the best college ever and how much we love it. They’ll think of Yalies as the friendliest people at any college they’ve visited, and that’s why they’ll come.
Yet, what I seem to hear more often in our daily lives is a chorus of groans and moans about the struggles we experience here. The nebulous phrase “so much work” seems to loom over us as we begin our second week of classes, and somehow ends only when finals are done. We complain about how the show we’re rehearsing for and the articles we’re editing eat up all of our hours. And, of course, “midterm season,” which should probably just be called “the semester.”
What happened? Where did all our bubbly excitement go? We freak out about the fact that, “Oh my god, we’re almost halfway done with college!” But at the same time, we also seem to constantly count down the days until the next break. How is it that we can somehow spend an entire semester mumbling about “midterms”?
There are times when I walk the well-trodden path back to my suite, and I am suddenly hit by the realization that Yale has become my daily, routine life. I attend classes in the building where the Milgram experiments took place, and we discuss books that I love. I run around to extracurricular meetings and practices that take place in beautiful castles with heavy iron gates. Somehow this place, with its long history, grandeur and beauty has become normal for me. I wake up, and this is life. Most of the time, I don’t think twice about it.
It’s easy to exclaim “I love Yale!” when we get Macklemore or Morgan Freeman, but sometimes it’s the ordinary things that are magical. Here are brilliant professors that we see regularly. Here our main job is simply to learn and deeply think about the cool things that interest us. Here we’re encouraged to pursue our passion projects and extracurricular activities with zeal. Then there are our classmates, each with their own fantastic story to tell. As a good friend once observed so astutely, “Isn’t it crazy that we go to a school where everybody got into Yale?”
This same friend also once commented that the funny thing about Yale is that we all choose to be busy. We don’t really have to do any of the extra things that we do. We could very easily just go to class, eat, go back to our rooms, do our homework and go to bed.
But we choose to do more. I think there’s a part of us deep down that does love it all. So — in the midst of all the midterms, papers, problem sets, shows, rehearsals and applications — let’s take a deep breath and savor it, this rich feeling of having so much to do with our lives. Feel the enthusiasm emanating from your professors and classmates when they get to their favorite topics. Let it be contagious.
On my way home over spring break, as I stood in the aisle of the plane, I started talking to a man behind me who happened to be a Yale alumnus from back when girls weren’t allowed at Yale. We talked a little bit, and between us, I felt the connection of a mutual affection for our school. He said to me: “Enjoy your time in New Haven. It’ll be the shortest, brightest years of your life.”
Today, those bright years will just begin to dawn for a crop of new freshmen as our years march steadily to their end, swallowed up by time. Remember again that thrill we felt at all the possibilities unfolding before us that summer? Let’s revive it. Let’s remember how incredibly lucky we felt that day, and how these prefrosh feel now. Let’s try to relish the time we have left here. Try to resist the temptation to hit fast forward, even during midterm season. It already feels so short.
Claire Zhang is a sophomore in Davenport College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .