As I pass by the halfway point of my college career, I’ve learned a few things: dining hall food isn’t as good as Bulldog Days led me to believe, every winter somehow manages to be the “worst winter in years” and, most important, I simply don’t have the time for things I don’t care about.
Coming to college, I saw an expansive four years ahead of me. Boundless opportunities to explore, to try new things, to transform myself into the perfect “Yalie.” I joined residential college student government, I signed up for panlist upon panlist at the extracurricular Bazaar — I even joined a little student-run newspaper!
Some of these things I did because I thought I would be interested in them; others I did because I felt that I should do them. I was at Yale, after all, and everything oozed prestige. I had to do everything lest I fall behind.
Unfortunately, this meant that many activities I was interested in before coming to Yale — dance, hip-hop, community outreach — fell by the wayside. There simply wasn’t time in this brave new world for those old habits. I had to explore, and I couldn’t do that without sacrificing a few things.
But now as I enter the twilight half of my Yale career, I don’t see the same expanse in front of me. Instead, I see myself racing against a deadline: the day I enter the “real world.”
With the clock ticking, I find that I simply don’t have the time to waste doing extracurriculars for some vague artificial sense of prestige or tradition. I don’t have time to sit through meetings, yawning because I don’t care. As the last two years of my life at Yale start to speed by, I’ve realized the need to cut down.
Somewhere along the way, I realized that I had been so blinded by the lights at this place — by “the world’s oldest this” or “Yale’s first that” — that I had lost that simple fact. I wanted to become a “Yalie” so much that I latched on to Yale’s values at the expense of what made me, me.
While I’m certainly glad I explored while I could, I now find myself returning back to those things I left neglected during my time of exploration — back to what I really cared about before Yale told me what to care about. I find myself remembering the passions that made me an individual, that helped get me here in the first place.
The old me is the reason I am where I am.
College is inevitably a time of change, but that change should be on our own terms. At Yale, we can and often do feel obligated to sacrifice our time and energy to endeavors that we only pursue halfheartedly because we feel some abstruse cultural need to. This phenomenon takes many forms, whether it’s taking one extra credit so you don’t feel “lazy” — whatever that means at Yale — or joining one extra club. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. But to identify and reject the values imposed on us by Yale’s culture, to think for ourselves and pave our own path, is precisely what we should do. Yale shouldn’t be wasted on things we don’t care about just because “it’s Yale.”
They say that it’s only at the end of a story that you begin to see how all the pieces fit into place. As all of the various pieces come together, I’ve come to understand that each person’s Yale career is unlike anyone else’s, and that’s how it should be.
At the end of the day, we came to Yale to find ourselves. We won’t do that if we follow a script, even if it’s the script that’s given to us by Yale. So explore, but do so with purpose, and when something doesn’t click, throw it away. There’s no time to waste.
Leo Kim is a junior in Trumbull College. His column runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .