I skipped the sixth grade. This fun fact has approximately no effect on my daily life, but I like bragging about it. Few people skip grades, and even fewer skip grades beyond lower elementary school.
At 11, skipping a grade felt like the biggest, most important thing in the world. I was going to be younger than almost everyone in my grade for the rest of my life. I would start college at 17. This was exciting; I was ahead of where I was supposed to be. I felt like I had done something extraordinary. In a way, being admitted to Yale gave me a similar satisfaction. I figured out a way to achieve something that most people do not get to do.
This week, I’ve thought a lot about my Yale visit as a high school senior. Three years ago, I was so marveled by Elm Street in the sun and the benches in the courtyards.
In the months following my admittance, I was overwhelmed by the sense that the rest of my life was ending. Yale would be an entirely new, immersive environment. I would leave behind my old identity. This was the most tantalizing prospect of starting college: I wouldn’t be awkward or weird anymore. I would kiss more boys. I would find other people who cared about feminism and poetry.
The good news is that I no longer feel weird for reading a lot of Joan Didion and watching CNN. At Yale, I’ve definitely kissed boys. I’ve learned that there are many kinds of feminism and poetry, and I have mixed feelings about them. Yale lives up to the hype in a lot of ways, but I’ve also had times that made me feel like everyone else had figured out a way to maneuver Yale better than me. Everyone else is cooler or more successful or more impressive.
Marina Keegan ’16 wrote about this feeling in a Weekend column, “Song for the special,” almost four years ago: She wanted to be remembered, and she was jealous that other people at Yale seemed to be so much better at … everything. I read that column in the summer before my freshman year and wondered how I’d manage those feelings. I wondered if they’d plague me as much as they plagued her. What would make me feel out of place at Yale?
Back during my two-year stint in middle school, I often believed that I’d be less anxious if only I hadn’t skipped a grade. Everyone else must have figured out how to be cool during sixth grade because I didn’t get invited to pool parties on weekends, and my eighth grade boyfriend dumped me for a cheerleader with braces. Sixth grade was something I’d maneuvered my way around, but it eventually became something I resented. I missed a year of socializing and science class worksheets, and I’d never get the chance to fill in that gap of experience.
Almost a decade later, I know that almost everybody feels awkward during early adolescence, regardless of whether they’re slightly younger than most of their classmates. I know those feelings were silly, but it felt so real to me back then. Skipping sixth grade was a burden and a privilege.
At Yale, I’ve never totally shaken the suspicion that everybody else had some special preparation that I didn’t get. Other people know how to survive on less sleep. Other people know how to engage in super chill, totally casual romantic entanglements with grace. Other people are more popular, or they have more followers on Instagram.
I know better than this. After talking to most of my close friends for just a few minutes, I realize that they’re lost, too. But I need to constantly remind myself that the awkwardness of being a person will never really go away, wherever I live or study. While I’ve definitely grown in confidence throughout college, there have been many moments of chaos. I am still tempted to think that I’ll reach another turning point. It seems like every semester I believe this is it! My moment! Life didn’t begin until now! This is the beginning of a newer, more graceful existence!
The truth is that my life started 20 years ago, and college is just a part of it. You get approximately four years here: eight semesters and a handful of summers, and each of these periods is exciting in its own way. For the most part, this is true for everyone.
During my Bulldog Days three years ago, I snuggled on a hammock with my hosts, and they told me about how they had to wake up at dawn to finish papers. They were tired and hadn’t done their laundry. They complained about Yale’s dating scene and hookup culture.
Their lives were messy. Mine is, too.
Adriana Miele is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact her at email@example.com .