On these busy, rain-filled days of the new semester, time seems to pass in units of breaking news instead of minutes. The government shutdown. Puerto Rico. The Women’s March. #MeToo and #TimesUp. Aziz Ansari. A dozen shootings since the New Year. The bomb cyclone. Bombs in Florida malls. Highway pileups. Tide pods. The monster flu epidemic. Last year was the second warmest year in history, topped only by 2016 — and I’d venture to say that January 2018 has been the longest January of all time.
There have been moments in the past week when I could hardly hear my professor’s voice over the news, the tweets, the sound bites and the rants on my crowded Facebook feed. But which is the distraction: school or the news? At night, I agonize over my OCS worksheet; in the morning, I pry my eyes open and squint at bolded headlines on my phone. I stress eat Cheez-Its. I struggle to write columns. I add scribbled fragments to my journal. There are times when chronicling my feelings from the day manifests as another day unto itself, a long winding day that leads into an increasingly unfriendly unknown. Perhaps the unknown was never friendly — but the illusion fades faster when Yale fraternities are in the papers for sexual assault again and there are one hundred fifty female Olympians addressing their sexual abuse at Larry Nassar’s trial.
Tick tock. The headlines are relentless. Deportation. LGBTQ+ rights. The opioid crisis. Mental health. Jobs, internships, volunteer work. Resumes. LinkedIn profiles. Tinder dates. Viral videos, nihilistic memes. Fighting for elbow space in “Psychology and the Good Life” and breathing space in national discussions. With each sprint up and down Science Hill, it gets harder to keep up. Each day brings breaking news reports, fresh campus outrage, new reasons to consider what it means to be an American — and what it means to be back on campus again, standing in the center of it all. My friends and I have so much to talk about that I often feel like we say nothing at all.
When I remember what my ten-year-old self thought life would be like in 2018, I can’t help but feel that this wasn’t supposed to be my generation’s chapter in history. Surely, I think to myself, our cover page wasn’t supposed to be so torn or angry — and I wasn’t supposed to be staggering in the middle, juggling unearthed racism and loud threats against net neutrality, shoulders braced against the headline, “DISILLUSIONMENT” in tapered sans serif font. I imagined there would be no misdeeds left to march against when I was in college, that campus rallies would no longer be necessary in the utopia of my future. Instead, we’ve broken records — but the circumstances that warranted those gatherings surely deserve no trophy.
Last week during lecture, I read in my Twitter Moments that even 21-year-olds can be considered adolescents. As I spend my days anxiously scrolling through CNN and thinking about the impending spring semester schedule deadline and my next Durfee’s trip, I can’t help but wish that it were true. Adolescence means pre-adulthood, pre-responsibility, pre-worries. I’m free to be a student and only a student, at least for a little while longer. But even as I sit here typing in my pajamas, it rings false. Deep down, I realize that the second I stepped foot on this campus and opened my mind, I fell into the part of reality that most parents want to hide from their children — police brutality, racism in the Senate, the Ku Klux Klan, alive and well in 2018 — and instinctively, I grabbed onto every branch on the way down. Even the most news-averse Yalies have no choice but to engage in the things that matter most to their classmates, because this campus has a culture of caring. Once learned, caring is a difficult habit to shed.
So in the end, what am I? A writer. A worrier. A student. A concerned citizen with one hand reaching toward the steering wheel that will give me a say in our country’s future. Sometimes, the dashboard seems too far away, too elusive for any of us to reach. Nevertheless, we try. We study. We rally. And at the end of the day, we close our millennial-pink chapter and wait for the next headline to fill our screens.
Catherine Yang is a junior in Trumbull College. Her column runs monthly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .