Over winter break, there are a few guaranteed items on every Yalie’s to-do list: Netflix, junk food, uninterrupted sleep at absurd hours of the day and — last but not least — blue-booking. After arriving home from finals, I partook in the first three activities while vehemently avoiding the fourth, instead passing the days until 2017 in a comfortable, lazy sort of haze. While I did feel a small leap of excitement during the countdown on New Year’s Eve, I was hit much harder by an epiphany that I had two days later when I opened the Yale Blue Book: My time at Yale is running out.
No, I am not a senior experiencing the existential upheaval of my last semester in college. No, I am not a junior frantically searching for light in the dark reality of the job market. Instead, I am a melodramatic little sophomore, with four more long semesters stretched out in front of me. But I am also not wrong.
From the moment we step through Phelps Gate, our time is short. We spend the first two weeks scrambling to understand distributional requirements and course selections (with questionable success) and the next few months struggling with exciting, albeit often poorly chosen courses that lead us into yet another semester questioning our academic direction. Second starts off with a more confident gait, but is soon tripped up by the unintended savagery of housing draws, endless midterms and overly ambitious course selections. The following summer is a blur of traveling, jobs and opportunities. Rinse, repeat.
Harvard-Yale, Spring Fling, Halloween, holiday dinners — the events drift by and we grow to love Yale; we grow to love our peers, our college, our dining halls. We pick our favorite library, our favorite suite to visit. We pick our closest friends. We find new ones. We choose our party nights and our Netflix weekends, we struggle with the eternal plague of procrastination. The days pass in a blur of excitement, silliness, stress, gritty hard work and political discussions. And never, not once, do the gears stop turning. It is only in the quietest moments — in our beds late at night, or over winter break — that we get a chance to reflect on the cascade that has dragged us onward, right into this moment.
In these moments, I wonder what I’ve gained from my first few semesters at Yale. Time slips uncontrollably through my fingers, true. But what I chose to gain during that time — and what I choose to gain from here onward — is up to me. I like to think that actively thinking about my remaining time will make me more available to my friends during the semester, more socially active, more relaxed, more balanced — but the calendar keeps filling, and the clock keeps ticking. I am pressed for time, and I must decide. We must all decide. With only so many hours in the day and so many options, life at Yale quickly becomes a matter of choosing, rather than prioritizing. But how do I choose, if I don’t even know what I want?
I turned 20 in December, and my time at Yale is almost up. Most of my suitemates will turn 20 this year, and their time at Yale is almost up. You decided to pick up the News or click on a link a few minutes ago, and your time in college is almost up. By the time you’ve finished reading this article, a couple minutes of your time in school will have passed. What did you get out of it? What will you get out of the next few minutes? Weeks? Years? Will you Woads more often? Work out more? Hop on the Metro North to New York for once? Finish your problem sets so you can go to the Yale University Art Gallery on Friday afternoons? (Or, if I’m at all successful, perhaps read more of my columns?)
Too specific for you? Okay, how about this: What if we all just did more of the things that make us happy? More importantly, what does that even mean to you? Maybe you’re mad that I’m asking you all these questions, even though I clearly don’t have the answers (and if you do have them, shoot me an email). Among all of the questions, however, only one fact is clear: Senior year is almost — or already — here. And where we will be when it arrives?
Catherine Yang is a sophomore in Trumbull College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .