We think we deserve something special. We knock on the door of the universe with our empty bowls and empty baskets, our empty hands. We are waiting for the universe to give us something good. Something beautiful. We are waiting, waiting for the world to change — for our lives to change, for something extraordinary to happen. We are waiting to win.
I think about the meaning of my life a lot. Yes, I am a bit of an existentialist, although I I’ve only read a little bit of Sartre and Camus. But I think about who I am a lot, and who I will become. My mind floats away to the future, picturing what is the best way to live, what path will be the fullest and most meaningful. I think I’ve scratched out money as a motivator; I don’t think I need that much money to be happy. I just need enough.
I see myself living in some quaint village in coastal California, in a lovely stucco home with ocean décor and smooth wood floors, painted mugs and shelves stocked with tea. I hope my home will be full of love and sentiment, a place where I can invite my parents and siblings. We will laugh and cook.
I think I spend so much time trying to reconcile who I will become because deep down, I don’t agree with the standards of life and success Yale has tried to establish in me over the last four years. Deep down, I don’t agree with the idea that money and power are everything. I don’t agree with the fact that if I don’t become a tenured professor somewhere, I have failed. I don’t agree with that.
I think somewhere, inside ourselves, we are hoping the universe will say it’s OK for us to define our own success the way we want to define it. We are waiting to exhale sighs of relief and for the pressure to fade.
Yale’s culture makes it difficult to define success outside of academic and professional goals. Yale teaches us how to network, work hard, write killer papers, argue logically and eloquently. But it doesn’t always teach us how to strive towards fulfillment outside of the professional molds that have been set up for us. Who are we, if we are not future bankers and doctors and lawyers and professors?
Once, I told a close friend I was considering taking a year off from Yale. I told her I was hesitant about taking the year off because I was afraid I wouldn’t be doing anything that would be productive towards my professional goals.
“There are ways to be productive in just taking care of you,” she said.
Other than its immense pressure, Yale has been a dream come true. There’s nothing like traipsing about gorgeous gothic buildings days on end, sailing through amazing classes and engaging in fabulous extracurriculars. Yale made this happen. That is the beautiful part about this place — somehow, in the midst of all the pressure, Yale fills us up. Yale fills us up with incredible intellectual treasures given by brilliant professors. Yale fills us up with tremendous experiences: laughing with friends in suites, singing in a cappella groups, acting in plays, dancing at parties like the world will never end.
When we set aside the pressure, Yale fills us up in a way that nothing else can fill us. Sometimes, from Yale, we receive a glimmer of hope in understanding ourselves, in finding meaningful ways to live — sitting down with our suitemates and letting them cry on our shoulders, engaging with religious groups (or not), writing papers on topics we truly care about, sitting on cross campus and just watching the world. The small, and sometimes unseen, things that fill us up but have nothing to do with our careers.
After Yale, I hope I can find a permanent way to set aside academic and professional pressures and find success in small but meaningful things. I hope I can dream about my house in California without having to worry about the salary I need to earn, the professional status I need to achieve, the networking I need to do.
We deserve something special from this world. Yale has taught us how to find something special in ourselves and we need to capitalize on that. To live fully, we don’t need to just live as bankers and doctors and lawyers and professors, but to live as people who have defined success differently. It’s OK to define success today as just simply reading that book you’ve always wanted to read, even though it’s not for a class. It’s OK to define success today as just taking a nap.
We deserve something special. We are artists, entrepreneurs, thinkers, lovers, friends. We should live this way.
Erinma Kalu is a senior in Branford College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.