This column was published as part of the Commencement Issue for the Class of 2015.
When you ask an alumnus what the worst thing about Yale is, a common response is that it goes by too quickly. After sophomore year, I started to realize what that meant, and now as a graduating senior, I have come to fully appreciate it.
My goal for senior year, anticipating that it would fly by, was to enjoy each and every day for a different reason. The goal has translated into victories Trumbull had no business winning against JE in IMs, tickets to plays I had not planned on seeing, photos of newly spotted gargoyles, phone calls to admitted students, excess group orders at sushi buffets, jokes about divestment protesters and their charades, hours in Beinecke and, most importantly, every minute I can steal to bro-out with my best friends Peter and Chen.
While trying to create more opportunities to collect stories, I realized that there was only so much I could do. The best memories have been the spontaneous ones — the moments I least expected. More often than not, they have been the small things that border on the absurd. Yet, I still fall into the trap of dwelling on the things I “missed out on”: the Master’s Teas I never got around to, the baseball or hockey games I couldn’t attend, the meals I never scheduled and the people I never really got to know.
I can and should cherish what I have been able to do.
By spending so much time remembering and striving for “bigger” or “more significant” memories, it is easy to undervalue or forget the abundance of small moments. I have come to accept that my experiences have had more beauty when I’ve paused to reflect and enjoy them, either in the moment or shortly thereafter. Instead of focusing on regrets, I should have taken more time to wrap my head around this special place and its people throughout my whole time here, to make each and every moment more significant.
Unlike my close friends, I’ll be working at Yale after graduation. While I can build on my Rolodex of memories by continuing to take satisfaction from beating JE in IMs, they will only have the memories we shared together over the past four years.
My new memories will include different people and will probably never live up to the original ones. The space will transform into a distinct shape and meaning without the people I have gotten to know so well.
But the old relationships will live on. Rest assured that when you come back to campus, the gargoyles will still be awake. Yale is not a place that you outgrow. It is a lifelong community, an idea, a set of values even, that simultaneously shape you and are shaped by you. The last four years may very well become a sort of “gold standard” in our minds, yet we mustn’t let ourselves get too caught up trying to recreate them. We must let ourselves build upon them. Our Bright College Years are ending, with paper, and we are entering the next phase of Yale. Finally, we are ready to answer the real questions: What will you do with your Yale degree? And eventually: How will we be remembered?
As a history major and someone who admittedly thinks too much, I cannot help but wonder what Yale and my Bright College Years will mean to me years from now. They are the stories and memories that survive, as though trapped in a bottle and released in the company of friends, new and old. The Bright College Years can be relived but they cannot be replaced. We must make sure that our friendships don’t end with them.
Brandon Boyer is a senior in Trumbull College.