Three days into my senior year, I sat on my therapist’s couch and said, “I’m ready to graduate.” We laughed, but then we talked about how that wasn’t so horrible. The world is huge outside of Yale! Post-grad life! A kitchen! New boys with different emotional challenges!
Entering the middle of my senior fall, I still feel ready to graduate. The last couple weeks were intense: our campus has grappled with sexual violence and racial injustice, especially amongst Yale’s faculty.
Yale is an institution with a lot of power and prestige that’s very good at reproducing power and prestige. We live in an unequal world, and though there are many people striving to make it a better place, I’m worried that many of the most influential spaces in this country still aren’t doing enough to empower our most disenfranchised peoples. We spend money decorating our campus with gourds and Dixie cups of “massaged” kale salads, but why aren’t we investing more resources in hiring and retaining faculty of color?
Sometimes Yale makes me feel like I’m living in a sea of prep school-educated sorority clones with puffy jackets. Everyone seems to have light brown-to-blonde hair and major in Econ. Yet here I am, wearing my sweater arguing over John Donne’s place in the English canon in the JE dining hall. I’m also part white, and I grew up dreaming about this place. But I’m sick of discussing Shakespeare with a bunch of white kids from New York.
The New York Times published a piece this week that declared 2015 “The Year We Obsessed Over Identity,” as though this were the first year that anyone in America ever realized that transgender people exist, or that people of color face more violence and persecution than non-colored people. I scrolled through that piece on my phone last night and laughed. Inequality didn’t begin on January 1st of 2015.
But I also realize that I need to be much easier on the people around me. I am angry that other people don’t think about all the damages that the gender binary has done, but the reality is that many Americans didn’t know about the transgender community until Caitlyn Jenner came out on ABC. I’m disappointed to realize that others didn’t think critically about police violence until Ferguson, but many live in white-dominated neighborhoods where this is a non-issue.
I want to leave this place better than I found it. I want my four years and all the traumas that I overcame to mean something. I want to write about my life and experiences because I think they’re important, and because I think that’s sort of the point of writing. I have things to say, and the News has given me a platform. People can read this while they peel boiled eggs in Calhoun, or they can write tweets insulting my intelligence. Either way, I’m here, and I’m trying to make meaning in a very broken world.
When I was admitted to Yale, my mother started crying, and I started shrieking. She ran into her room and brought back a folder with important papers, and she pulled out a “creative writing assignment” that I wrote when I was ten. In it, I talked about wanting to visit every island in the Caribbean and how I think I have really cool knees (I was fascinated by a mole on the left one). I talked about what I envisioned for myself: writing, being famous, living in Manhattan and graduating from Yale.
And once I got here, everything in my life would make sense. The New Yorker would hire me upon graduation, and Tina Fey would become my best friend.
I no longer believe that. The world just doesn’t work that way.
Sometimes I think that Yale would be five times easier to manage if I had a boyfriend. Or if I were white. Or if I had gone to a New York City prep school. Or if I were a fabulous gay man involved in theater. Instead I watch way too much television and skim a lot of old novels. I think I’m cool, and I don’t actually want to be someone else. But my anger stems from an understanding that there is unjust trauma and violence in this world.
Sometimes recognizing that is enough.
Adriana Miele is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column runs on Thursdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .