As Bulldog Days passed earlier this week, I saw, beyond the flocks of prefrosh, a reflection of myself. Two years ago, I was in their shoes. Wide-eyed at the front door of one of the most prestigious and storied universities in the country, if not the world, I felt a mix of excitement and apprehension about my future. Now, two years into Yale, nose crammed in dry books and even drier papers, I have almost forgotten where I am.
At Yale, we spend a lot of time worrying. We worry about school and we worry about grades. We worry about divestment and we worry about microaggressions and we worry about safe spaces. And granted, these are things we should worry about. But sometimes we get so caught up in what we’re worried about that we forget the simple fact that we go to Yale.
As a forewarning, I’ll say this: What I’m about to write isn’t particularly novel. Honestly, certain segments may sound like they may have been written as part of a cheesy self-help piece, but hear me out. Since I’m writing for the last issue of the News this year, I want to reflect and maybe be a bit nostalgic.
Yale has its flaws. That’s a given. Every large institution has its flaws. But for all its flaws, it’s become my home and a place that I love. But sometimes, I think that I take this for granted. During Bulldog Days two years ago, I made a deal with a group of prefrosh I was walking around campus with. Every month, we would take a break from our lives and just go around and admire the campus. It seemed so obvious — Yale was so beautiful, and what kind of person wouldn’t take time to appreciate that?
But I don’t think that group ever once met to do what we said we would. What happened? Well, life at Yale happened. Neo-gothic became the norm, something I saw each day when I exited my dirty dorm room. World-renowned professors turned into “that one hard grader” and “the boring lecturer.” This opportunity that was once a dream is now mundane, everyday, normal life.
But seeing the prefrosh again this year, I remembered. I had never wanted it to be this way. Coming to Yale, I wrote an op-ed (“The opportunity cost,” Aug. 13) in which I tried to express the obligation I felt when I first arrived. We had been granted a privilege most would never have, and I felt the need to use it for something. I didn’t necessarily want to use it to be rich or important, but I didn’t want to let it go to waste, whatever that meant.
As I sat in class Tuesday afternoon browsing the Internet next to a prefrosh who was rapidly scrambling down notes on dense analytic philosophy, I realized that I had forgotten what I had written in these pages my freshman year. Maybe that’s precisely what the “sophomore slump” is, but as this year comes to a close, I know that’s not what I want the next few years to be.
Freshmen — or even worse, accepted high school seniors — are often given a hard time because they don’t “know anything.” Admittedly, I didn’t know anything arriving at Yale (even if I thought I did), so that’s not completely ungrounded. But I think there’s some value to this kind of inexperience. It gives us the attitude that challenges us to do something we’ve never done before, to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone — something I don’t do nearly as often as I’d like to now that I’ve settled into my routine.
Sometimes it’s good to “stop and smell the roses,” in a way. We have to see Yale for what it is. Many times, that means that we need to recognize its flaws and imperfections. But that doesn’t mean we should forget the things that made this our home, and even before that, a future I never expected to be given.
Ultimately, I guess that’s why I’m writing this right before we leave for the summer. With several months of freedom before us, we’re able to reapproach Yale with fresh eyes. There’s some credit to be given to naiveté. The mentality we all had coming here, the mentality that dared us to try new things, to do our best, to make a mistake or two, shouldn’t be abandoned. We shouldn’t let life at Yale prevent us from making the most of what Yale has to offer.
Leo Kim is a sophomore in Trumbull College. His column runs on alternate Fridays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .