Connecticut may boast Yale, but to outsiders like myself, the remainder of the state lies lonely and stagnant, forgotten in the shadow cast by New Haven. Other states share this existence; visitors blinded by the heady pulse of New York City forget its northern climes, and states like Indiana and Ohio stretch far and wide, covered with corn and sedative soybeans that lull many a roadtripper to sleep and leave many a seat belt mark on said roadtripper’s face.
Do not sleep. Instead, watch the cornfields.
Our time at Yale, and in fact our time anywhere, is not an unbroken sentence of explosive triumphs and whirling fantasies, but is rather punctuated and interrupted by fragments, whether they be four-hour layovers when we travel abroad or just five-minute walks up Hillhouse Avenue. And it is these stretches of time, these cornfields, that many of us most sorely trivialize.
Traveling to Yale is, for me, a process. To arrive in time for FOCUS this year, I woke up at 3 a.m. on a Saturday, hopped on a plane from Chicago to Hartford and drove the remainder of the route. While obviously my traveling isn’t the blurred rigmarole of international students, it still provides ample time for me to do what no one expects a Yale student to do: nothing.
Of course, there are things I could be doing: studying for my Russian class, sketching, maybe listening to my new “mood” playlist. But during these paused times that so many would rather fast forward with their phones or other distractions, I prefer to exist at the whim of time, and maybe even rewind.
For cornfields are not ever just cornfields, just as suspiciously colored objects in literature are never just suspiciously colored objects. When I was little, cornfields hid all manner of creatures, whether they be redcaps and hinkypunks from Harry Potter or maybe just fairies, sparkling within the water cascading from industrial sprinklers. As I learned more history and science, the forests were not just green smudges bordering the road, but whole ecosystems and civilizations, whether they be animal or human. And recently, cornfields and their neighboring crops elicit not just fantasy, but reality, for the acres of agriculture bring to mind the massive project of feeding the world.
Not everyone has the privilege of staring at acres of corn. But anything can be your cornfield, like the ocean during an endless flight, a string of neon-lit strip malls, even the sky — during night or day. Anything that can be watched so your eyes glaze but your thoughts blaze.
Disconnection, while detrimental in areas like diplomacy or public health, is a status not often achieved by students. Classwork and projects glue us to our computer screens, and notifications in every hue of a pixelated rainbow assail us, each one attaching a wire of habit to our brains that gives us a buzz reminiscent of coffee, and in some cases, something far stronger. Exploring the Bluebook for my next semester’s classes one moment can morph shockingly into scrolling through Ryan Reynolds’ Twitter, and I’ve “taken a break” from my fair share of readings because it is of the utmost importance to me that Kylie Jenner removed her lip fillers. And digging too deep into Reddit has been known to do to students what Washington Irving did to Rip Van Winkle. While our outlets keep us connected, we sometimes get ourselves tangled in the wires.
But as part of an informed generation, we have had years to practice proper self-restraint. That isn’t to say we don’t procrastinate or distract ourselves with media, but we remain conscious of our tethers, the issues that anchor us and prevent us from wandering down a dark and digital path. Tethers like famine and injustice and the constant threat of war loom over our Netflix binges, and while it may be difficult to strike for the surface from the depths of media, all you need is to remember one thing: your cornfield, your place to think, your haven where you leave your body not for distraction, but for thought. Discussion is a certified way to promote a solution, but individual ideas can come from those moments when you zoom out, when you examine the world without the rushing clamor of the ever-building buzz that surrounds you.
Yale will provide us with countless destinations, but as we journey to those places, whether to class or an internship or abroad, we must remain mindful of the cornfields, the sinuous stretches of time that we may not even realize we’re losing. So as you continue to travel, on whatever scale, slow down at times, and catch up with yourself.
Valerie Pavilonis is a first year in Morse College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .