Yale often feels like a rock nuzzled in a random corner of the universe. It seems so far away from everything: from old friends, from family and from the rest of the world. Even the way that the University interacts with the New Haven community feels — at times — aloof and distant. We don’t have to travel far to get to our classes or to our friends. We stay ensconced in our little bubble for the most part, periodically venturing into the outside world. Here, we remain content.
But sometimes the bubble pops. The serene fortress we built around ourselves collapses. We remember that a world outside of Yale does, in fact, exist.
For me, the bubble popped last week. My mother called me on the phone, frantic, to tell me that my great-grandmother had a stroke. As I am writing this, my great-grandmother remains in hospice, slowly starving to death. Because she refused to receive nourishment from a feeding tube, she can no longer eat on her own. The fortress had collapsed.
I thought for a long time about what it means to write on the fleeting nature of life. I let my fingers hover over the keyboard with half-formed ideas in my head. I’m so used to clear premises and conclusions, but sometimes it’s impossible to describe what one feels inside, as much as I hate to admit this.
Here at Yale, we come from near and far; some fly miles and miles to come here. Even though I feel so far from home this week, in reality, I know that my home in New York City is only a stone’s throw away. I can just hop on the Metro North and arrive there in a few hours.
When I first came to Yale though I felt trapped; the bubble felt like a plastic bag, suffocating me. My hometown never sleeps. You can wake up at 3 a.m. and hear sirens as ambulances travel down the street. Someone is always walking around Astor Place or Grand Central. My friends at Cooper Union, NYU and Columbia all make their homes out of the city. They imbibe their environment; there is no clear delineation between the campus and the city.
At Yale, on the other hand, our daily lives rarely extend beyond Phelps Gate. I can roll out of my bed in Farnam and arrive at my philosophy class in LC in two minutes — a drastically shorter commute than the hourlong train ride I used to take every morning to my high school, Bronx Science.
What does all of this have to do with my great-grandmother?
Now, this bubble has become my blanket; I welcome the interconnectedness of Yale instead of rejecting it. Before, I felt like being constantly surrounded by friends was oppressive, but it now feels like an escape. It is during times of loss when it is most necessary to feel the emotional support of those around you, and to give it back to those friends when they need it. New York is great, but for such a large place it can be lonely. If you burst into tears in the middle of a subway car, most people would look in the other direction. No one would offer you a tissue. While I usually appreciate this solitude, during times of loss it can be overbearing. At Yale, we usually try forgoing emotions in favor of rational thought. However, at times when we are emotionally vulnerable, the protection of a “bubble” can be exactly what we need.
Yale is becoming home, finally. I consider myself introverted; I’d rather hide under my blankets reading Plato — or watching Netflix — than going to a party. This is why I usually find the extremely social aspect of Yale so off-putting, and the independence of New York so attractive. However, it is OK to sometimes rely on others. It is OK to just say things and feel things and laugh and cry. We often feel like we have to wear masks — to keep going and running — by showing everyone the best possible image of ourselves, devoid of negative emotions. However, this is not always the case, and bad things happen unexpectedly. The good thing about living so closely to friends — at college — is that it allows for us to form genuine relationships because we are around each other constantly.
The bubble has become a blanket instead of a plastic bag.
Isis Davis-Marks is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .