When I was a freshman, a certain sort of senior girl existed within a completely inscrutable realm. Her various incarnations appeared all over campus, undoubtedly on the way to somewhere important. She nonetheless had enough time to fall into conversations that I desperately wanted to overhear. At night, she walked with a cute significant other, or with friends, never unsure of her next destination. A master of layering, she always had a silky tank on under her sweaters so she never overheated in class. Her ideas and ambitions seemed to populate the reality surrounding her as if she had simply turned on a spout and let them into the world.
These semi-mythical creatures have been on my mind for months now as I’ve stumbled through the beginning of senior year ill at ease with the suspicion that everything I do is just not quite right. I’ve sat silent through seminar, left parties shortly after arriving, stayed up and slept too late, gone days without speaking to some of my closest friends. I thought that senior year was supposed to be the point where everything clicked and everyone felt closest and most self-actualized.
For a while after the end of August, I’d felt anything but. None of the pieces of my days fit together. I’d start a reading and then turn to another and then forget to do the one actually assigned for the next day. No place felt right. I couldn’t get comfortable in my routines or classes. I’d walk into my apartment and feel the relief of home, but after a little while of trying to work at my kitchen table, the discomfort, the off-ness, would creep back over me.
Finally, finally this week somehow felt different. I don’t understand why, but I suspect that I’m the only person on this campus put at ease by the midterm. Balance has been restored and things feel right again — I’m able to comfortably spend time with friends and finish my reading and approach my thesis and wander the farmers market. For all the relief this has brought on, I still don’t quite understand what has changed.
I quit one commitment and tied up some loose strings on some side projects. I’ve stopped leaving New Haven for Jewish holidays. I’ve started checking my email only twice a day. So maybe it is simply about having more time to allocate as I wish. I can feel more comfortable with my choices because I have more time to make them.
Maybe the real lesson isn’t in simple time management fixes, but in expectations of stability and comfort. I don’t know why I thought that Yale would feel more manageable than ever before or that I could project total control onto my experience. In many ways, the beauty of my time here is its tendency to run off the rails — away from art history and into math, away from the Silliman dining hall and into spontaneous brunches for twenty, away from Haas and into the Sterling Nave.
When I got back to campus at the end of August, I wanted to feel like I’d just pressed play on a paused film. But that doesn’t happen at the beginning of any year, not even this last one. Comfort does not have to go hand in hand with stability here. It is a process that we must initiate if we are to best engage with this environment.
Comfort can’t just be about adjustment periods or headspace. It’s not about projecting power onto one’s surroundings. And while it can’t be something we expect to happen automatically, it is something we’re each capable of finding.
Caroline Sydney is a senior in Silliman College. Her column runs on alternate Tuesdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .