What a time to be alive! So sang Drake, and after my four years at Yale, I have to agree. I was here to see Mathematics Professor Ronald Coifman educate a tenth of the student body about how networks are structured, to witness the rise and fall and rise again of Saybrook College and to eat lunch in a Commons with as many birds as an aviary. I was here for incredible times.
Reflection and introspection can quickly become self-indulgent, but ingratitude is also problematic and often a sign of arrogance. I don’t like the pageantry and hoopla surrounding graduation and commencement — I think they have the net effect of psyching students out about leaving — but appreciate the importance of a fitting conclusion.
This column concludes my tenure as a staff columnist for the News. I hope that I was able to provide our University leadership with some helpful suggestions on common sense issues such as saving Christmas and serving weekly chicken tenders. I was elated to see the New York Times endorse my proposal for beer at the Yale Bowl, albeit in more general terms. I was unsurprised to see students flee CS50 like rats off a sinking ship, after predicting that a Harvard class on a Yale projector was sure to be a misadventure.
Indeed, through my columns and other extracurricular involvement, much of my time and effort here was focused on identifying and advocating for various improvements on campus. Our school is a troubled institution, and student voices are an integral component of making progress. However, we should also see the forest for the trees and recognize what an incredible blessing and privilege it is to learn here.
I am most grateful for my friends, particularly those who taught me the keys to success. Those of us who have seen the DJ Khaled snapchat videos know what I’m talking about, and candidly, I think they provide more wisdom than any Yale course. I am not nearly as talented of a mentor as the man who is sometimes referred to as “hip hop’s Oprah,” nor my personal mentor Brandon Sherrod ’16, who introduced me to the DJ Khaled snapchats earlier this year. But I want to use my final column to share one key that made biggest difference to me.
In Rocky III, after Rocky’s trainer Mick dies, Apollo Creed, a former Rocky opponent, takes the lead in training Rocky so that he can reclaim his title as the heavyweight champion of the world. Rocky’s effort is half-hearted, though; following years of victory, he has grown complacent and tired. He is no longer hungry enough to put in the work needed to “ride through the journey of more success,” to invoke a classic DJ Khaled line. However, with Apollo’s help, Rocky ultimately rediscovers the eye of the tiger and once more becomes the heavyweight champion of the world.
We each need to have our own eye of the tiger as well. Yale is a place with a lot of social pressure and consequently, many of us feel afraid to fail, or afraid to take risks, even for the sake of things we believe in. But former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, named by ESPN as the “Coach of the Century,” noted that the team that makes the most mistakes usually wins, because doers make mistakes. From my dabbling in psychology and cognitive science, I learned that while we are more likely to regret action in the short-term, we regret inaction more in the long-term.
I have seen and been inspired by students at this school hungry to create a better community. I am inspired by those who worked tirelessly last year to secure improved mental health resources. I am inspired by the efforts of students this year to address the epidemic of sexual misconduct revealed by the 2015 Association of American Universities’ survey.
We all need our own eye of the tiger to be our best selves and create our best Yale. To my peers and mentors who helped me cultivate one for myself, and who used their own to improve our school, I am sincerely grateful.
Michael Herbert is a senior in Saybrook College. This is his last column for the News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .