This column was published as part of the Commencement Issue for the Class of 2015.
One Wednesday night during the fall of our sophomore year, three friends and I went to The Study to drink champagne. I’m not sure why that Wednesday in particular, or what we were celebrating, if anything. But I remember a sort of heightened warmth to the evening, the kind that can only come in a Yale October, when the year still feels new and the sky turns purple around dusk and you find yourself always holding your breath because this, this could be the moment that everything turns wonderful.
That night was wonderful, as it happened. In the span of a few short hours, we told each other everything about ourselves.
Before we left, one of my friends started shaking her head. “Why do we insist on creating carica- tures of ourselves?” she said, I think mostly to herself. “This is so much better than that.”
During my time at Yale, I’ve struggled against my caricature. I’m the crazy Republican, the Jesus lover, the girl who wore wedge heels on move-in day freshman year. Or, as some guy put it a couple of months ago on a Saturday night at Box, I’m “the girl who got shot, right?”
All of this is true, of course. I am a Republican (though not all that crazy, I’d like to think). I do love Jesus, and I did wear wedges when moving into my fourth- floor suite in Silliman (a grave mistake). And yes, I am the girl who got shot. In my left arm, through a car window at a red light around 9 p.m. in my hometown.
Many of us at Yale allow ourselves to be painted in similarly garish strokes. Maybe you’re the News’ most prolific columnist or this year’s concertmaster of the Yale Symphony Orchestra or the most vocal member of Fossil Free Yale. We promote these caricatures because we crave consequence. We crave, above all, a means of fulfilling a certain, oft-unspoken hope: that when we graduate, we will leave a piece of ourselves. We will be remembered.
But our caricatures, however neatly they fit us into the grander puzzle of the Class of 2015, fail to tell our stories. The real ones. Ask me who I am, and this is what I might tell you: “For Emma” by Bon Iver makes me ache for something that, after two years of listening, I still can’t quite identify. My youngest sister was born on March 10, 2010. The saddest day of my life was when I tried to stop believing in God and the happiest was the day I realized I couldn’t.
The section asshole, the DS queen, the person who may or may not live in Payne Whitney — they all have crazy, messy, heartbreaking, invigorating and perfect stories. In our final days at Yale, demand to know those stories. Walk up to a person you’ve always consigned to two dimensions and demand to know about the first time he felt brave enough to speak in seminar. The fact that he sometimes listens to that Billy Joel song on repeat — the one his dad used to sing along to in the car — because it makes him feel safe. The day he met Her.
I know this week is supposed to be about spending time with those you already love. But try to learn one more story. If, like me, you’re frequently crippled by social anxiety, this task might seem horrifying. But remember that the people you’ll cling to in each overcrowded SCC-sponsored bar, the friends with whom you’ll want to savor every last second — you had to look past their caricatures once, too. You once had to demand their stories for the very first time.
Just one more. That’s all it takes to realize you’ve met a forever kind of person.
And in the learning of another’s story, share your own. Because if I’ve discovered anything in the last four years, it’s this: when two or five or 10 people meet for the first time, and sigh and drop their shoulders and say, “Ok, this is who I am,” that — that — is the moment that everything turns wonderful.