I felt “at home” at Yale for the first time on a Tuesday night in November. I had a physics midterm Wednesday (back when I wanted to be a physics major) and at around 12:30 left the Stiles library for Old Campus. Brain dead and anxious and on crutches, I managed to hobble to the Hall of Graduate Studies where trusty Transloc Rider said the blue night line shuttle was stopping. What a lucky break.
The shuttle gunned past Phelps on the way up College – oops – and as my little blue Transloc Rider dot slipped past the School of Forestry, the Divinity School, “Foote School Field” and Albertus Magnus College, I knew the route was a loop (duh).
Turns out it was the bus driver’s last run. I had to wait with my crutches on an empty street corner twenty blocks beyond the Blue Line’s wildest fantasies for the last shuttle of the night to take me back down the hill above the hill above science hill. And then, when my rescue shuttle shuddered to a stop in front of Phelps and the doors hissed open and I crutched through the swipe gate, I was back, and there was this goofy, god-you’re-so-dumb kind of warmth that wasn’t there before.
Freshman year is like one of those hairless dogs with wet alien eyes and a tongue that sticks out of its mouths sideways. It’s like babies when they spit up, like an awkward kind of lovable. I’ve had an awkward-lovable first-year time fitting myself in, and it’s now, when there are only a few more slimy egg brunches left in the academic year, when I can laugh the choked back-of-your-mouth laugh at what it’s been.
I became a running-for-exercise enthusiast over the summer, and in September I stress fractured my right hip. I hobbled around on crutches for two weeks and upgraded to a red Razor scooter. (Don’t hate me cause you ain’t me.) I flew down the bridge in front of Hillhouse 17 on my sexy red scooter through sticky mists late at night. I brought my crutches to Harvard-Yale and, with four other friends, was invited to cut the line for the return bus.
There are the awkward parts that became lovable and the seemingly lovable parts that were awkward. In the fall my English seminar (back when I wanted to be an English major) I had class outside on Old Campus. We were in a circle on the grass while a tour group walked by and took pictures of me, sitting criss-cross-apple-sauce with my thumb holding open the Canterbury Tales. I sat there furrowing my brow at the tension Chaucer creates between predestination and free will, religious commentary whose meaning is further complicated by his retraction (spoiler alert). What a photo-opp. A poster college kid in a poster college class contemplates literature.
I wonder how I met people. I went a little stir crazy not being able to run-for-exercise so I swam in Payne Whitney, in a one-piece and goggles and a swim cap, more than a couple days a week. I met people with my wet and sticky chlorine hair in a messy bun and my annotated Chaucer in my backpack walking my sexy red Razor scooter through Sterling on the way to CS50 office hours.
It’s weird how little the people I met and meet and keep meeting know about me compared to what my pre-college friends know about me. Yes, I have weird music taste and I love peanut butter. Of course I’m going to have a French pug named Chewbacca. That person who–that time when… I showed a high school junior from my town around Yale this week and I waved to a few people on Cross Campus. She said it was so nice how I knew everyone. I wish I knew everyone. I want to know everyone. Let’s actually get a meal!
It wasn’t all smooth peanut butter sailing. For a month, I didn’t know the blue line and the orange line both stopped at SPL. For a week I got the dining hall chicken salad. The lowest low was a fiasco that landed me hugging my knees in a dim corner of the library off the hallway where everyone makes their phone calls. A tourist in a green visor holding a polaroid — obviously a hide-and-seek savant — came down the hall and crouched down and stuck her foundation-chalked face into my mascara-smeared one and asked me how she could get to the Beinecke.
And now the lovable awkwardness is fleeting. Like the monkey-to-homo-sapien evolution diagrams, I used to take my Yale ID out to put it against the card swipe, then I kept it in my phone pouch, now sometimes I slip it in my back jean pocket and wave my butt near the censor.
I met a girl at Bulldog Days and we kept up a snap streak all summer but didn’t stay in touch at school. I ran into her a few days ago and she said “You were my first Yale friend,” and we hugged a nostalgic, reunion hug, a deep, older-and-wiser-now hug.
And then, on Bulldog Saturday last week, near the bonfire on Old Campus, some old friends and new friends and not-yet friends and I got approached by a kid asking for directions. Frosh meat! Yale is actually great because of the people, I said, and I didn’t really know what I was doing coming in, and I don’t really know what I’m doing now, but it’s okay because I’m really into stuff. It’s okay because I have a better idea of what “knowing what you’re doing” means. I like it a lot.
When he walked away, my friend leaned in and said “You know he’s my FroCo, right?”
Emily Schussheim | firstname.lastname@example.org