About two weeks ago, I accidentally called Yale “home.” Not out of emotional attachment, nor because it made conversation easier, but merely because Apple Maps had, in a Big Brother turn of events, dropped a pin on my dorm room as “home.” The same glowing blue pin that, two weeks prior, marked the garage of my childhood home in Texas, has since moved on faster than a heartbroken sixth grader.
It was at that point that I had finally begun to find my place amongst the curves of centuries-old stone and towering oaks — but I doubt that Apple Maps knew that much, considering that it barely fulfills its basic function of navigation. The melody of college — its rhythm of slamming doors, hum of constant traffic and staccato of laughter is the background music to the new life that I’m carving out here at Yale.
The weaving of this new melody often drowns out the old tunes of my hometown. I find myself disinterested by the events dominating life back home, which is concerning. But what perplexes me most is that, at times, my lack of interest bleeds into the experiences and people that helped weave the quilt of the last eighteen years of my life.
Being at Yale makes it easy to forget that there is a world beyond the borders of Payne Whitney and Science Hill, beyond what we call the “Yale bubble.” However, this attitude affects many of us on a much more personal level. We begin to lose the ability to hold more than polite conversation with those who we once considered our best friends or explain our new life experience to our families. Some may argue that this is a consequence of college — that leaving home obviously leads to disconnect. But as Yale students, we’re often conditioned into believing that our experience is not just different, but superior.
We’re reminded of this pseudo-reality on a daily basis, whether it’s the awe we feel when the light skirts in, almost flirtatiously, through the stained glass of Sterling Memorial Library, or the bravado that we feel when we upload a picture of the iconic Yale waffle to our Snapchat stories. It becomes increasingly difficult to explain the magical experiences here at Yale that are, at once, everything you dreamed of and everything you never could have dreamed of. Attempts to explain the beauty of life here become cheapened. They devolve into “I don’t want to brag” and “it’s hard to explain.” As we become less able to relate to those who knew us before we knew Yale, we slowly joke our way onto the bandwagon of elitism. We buy into the idea that everything, here, is somehow more interesting than everything, elsewhere.
But every bubble eventually must pop, no matter how shiny it may be. The first step to popping the “Yale bubble” is understanding that we didn’t become Yale students on our own. Those seemingly mundane hometown streets were once the center of our universe. The friends that distance has carried away were the ones that cheered on our most outlandish dreams. The family that we struggle to relate to was the catalyst for our lives here at Yale.
At the end of the day, the reason for a Yale education is to bring the values and lessons learned here back to the hometowns that raised us. If we continue to disconnect ourselves from the world around us, then we only serve to benefit ourselves as individuals. It’s our responsibility to strive for more, remembering the struggles and interests of those who helped us get here.
The people and places of our past will always define us, no matter how much we try to distance ourselves from them. Our lives here at Yale, then, will be infinitely more powerful if we intertwine them with the threads of our past, rather than living a duality.
Katherine Hu is a first year in Ezra Stiles College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .