On Saturday night, the class of 2016 attended our first extravagant senior event: Masquerade. The dance made apparent that the end is near. In the next few months, seniors are meant to cherish what’s left of this place. The dance signals the culmination of our undergraduate careers, one of several ritual complements to senior seminars and theses.
My friends and I have gone out more often this year than others, probably because we know that our walks down Elm Street are numbered. There’s something poetic about endings.
We’re leaving, so we have to think about what we’re leaving. We have to think about what these four years have meant. This is a daunting task.
Inevitably, I’ve reflected a great deal on the beginning. As I looked around the ballroom this weekend, dressed like a princess, the band began to cover Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” and I wanted to cry. I wanted everybody I’ve loved in this place to be in that room with me, and so many people were missing. A lot of them have already graduated.
The gentle giants, my fairy godparents. The ones who saw themselves in me when I was 17 and dyed my hair five different colors because a German magazine made it look cool. I miss the women who introduced me to Atticus and Orange Street. I miss their warm hands, the Elmhurst kitchens, the red loveseat. I miss Nicky and Amy and Abigail and so many other surrogate older siblings who have already tossed up their handkerchiefs and flittered off to Brooklyn and Asia and Los Angeles. I intended to write a column about them, about how much I miss them. But, really, they’re here with me. They’re in my heart, and they’re sending me iMessages. Consider this column a tribute to what they taught me.
Yale is the place where I became a whole person. Before I got to college, I didn’t like to face my problems. My wounds were sore spots to avoid at all costs. When a high-school friend tragically went missing my first semester, avoiding my trauma was no longer a luxury. Because my fellow frosh were so overwhelmed by this new environment, I disproportionately befriended those older than me. I remember resenting everyone in my year for a time: Freshman year is already hard enough, but they only had to worry about the most immediate concerns.
My most treasured moments from freshman year were evenly split between two red couches: the loveseat in my freshman counselor’s suite, and an armchair in a boy’s room. On Nicky and Adri’s couch, I shed many tears about something that I feared would define my entire Yale career. What I’ve learned since cannot be broken down into 800 words, but the lesson I value most is that some things won’t ever truly be over. Sometimes, when you are in profound pain, the best you can do is admit it. Face the truth of the matter, and then trust that this moment, however painful, will pass.
The grief of violently losing a young friend won’t ever go away. But it is easier to manage, to make it through the day now that I’ve gotten through the most intense throes of traumatic loss. I needed to experience that sense of displacement and loss so that I could move on from it — my fairy godparents taught me that. They guided me through it. And they still do.
Yesterday afternoon, a fellow senior friend mentioned how she feels pressure to make peace with all of her ex-best friends and romantic flames. Senior spring adds intensity to an already intense place, and Masquerade was a tangible reminder of that. Another friend mentioned her list of all the boys she should’ve kissed — a more trivial matter, but I think we’re all starting to fear every unturned stone.
As much as I want to embrace the senior spring ritual of perpetual drunken delight, I worry that I’m going to exhaust myself and forfeit the best parts of this place. Maybe that means I won’t make peace with every former friend or boy who didn’t want to be my boyfriend. Maybe that’s okay.
In her poem “Diving into the Wreck,” Adrienne Rich writes, “I came to explore the wreck. / The words are purposes. / The words are maps. / I came to see the damage that was done / and the treasures that prevail.” She distinguishes the difference between “the wreck” and “the story of the wreck,” because they are different. We have our entire lives to tell the story of Yale.
Until then, let’s dive into the wreck of it.
Adriana Miele is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column runs on Thursdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .