As I write this, I am sitting on a bus driving with some of the track team to Philadelphia for the Penn Relays. Behind me, several of my friends are dancing poorly to “Price Tag” and discussing possible performance art pieces we could stage. The most popular idea thus far is to take a movie theater but replace the screen with a mirror and then fill the theater with paid actors. The idea is so conceptually magnificent that we have decided it need never actually take place in order for it to have its full effect.
To me, this is what Yale is. These beautiful, goofy, silly, loving moments have defined my four years here. It is an unfortunate foible of the human psyche that we remember our failures and pain for years afterwards, while we often forget moments like this just hours later. Remembering the moments that made one happy takes active work. In many ways, my column this year has been an attempt to do that work. I have tried to explain to myself what it is that I love about this place as well as what frustrates me. I have been blessed to have had this forum to do this, and I want to sincerely thank all of you for taking the time to read my writing and offer your thoughts and advice.
All that is not to say, of course, that Yale is a perfect place. Far from it. And, as one columnist pointed out this week, criticism is often a genuine expression of love (“If you love Yale, critique it,” April, 20). So rally and question — let us all dedicate ourselves to pushing this place forward. But it is important to keep in mind that life is ultimately defined not by grand ideas or righteous causes but by goofy kids dancing to Jessie J. It is meeting with a professor at office hours and walking out confident and excited to write your paper. It is skipping your class so that you can make room for lunch with a girl you think is cute.
I do not know if Yale is better suited at creating these moments than other places. They cannot be planned and do not benefit from administrative oversight. I probably could have had equally touching experiences if I had gone to a different school, but that is not what I really care about. What I care about is that these experiences happened here, on this campus. The courtyard of JE, the halls of LC and the walk up Hillhouse have been endowed with a special meaning to me, as they have been for every student to attend this school. When I return in 10, 20, 50 years, I will be transported back to the 21-year-old I am now, even though I will be older and hopefully wiser. Eventually, I suppose, my concrete memories will fade away and I will be left with a hazy romantic affection for stone walls and glaring gargoyles. But this place is a part of me now and I am, in a small way, a part of it.
I have spent a good time here unsure if I was truly happy. I have doubted myself more deeply here than at any other time in my life. I still do. I have often felt unsure of my place, of my friends, of the purpose behind what I am doing. I have been ashamed by my inability to understand or even finish my readings and been gripped by fear in section when it is my turn to speak. And I have tried to act blasé when I’ve failed and to muster up the will to do a better job next time. Yale, like life, is tough. It can hurt. And sometimes it is not the type of pain one gets over quickly.
But now the bus is quiet. Most of the guys are asleep. The only people left talking are two freshmen in the back giggling over Kanye lyrics. Soon I will be graduated and it will be time to say goodbye to them and to the place that has become my home. Goodbye. I love you deeply.
Isa Qasim is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. This is his last column for the News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .