On the weekend after I was accepted to Yale, my dad brought me to the Yale bookstore and let me pick out some gear. With a hundred different T-shirts all calling for my attention at once, I rushed over to find what I really came there for — my Yale bumper sticker.
Going to a small regional high school, I recognized just about every car that filled the senior parking lot. In a sense, I was my silver Nissan with some chipped paint on the hood. So, putting a bumper sticker on my car was essentially an announcement of my college decision without having to deal with everybody asking me what my plans were. It sounded like a sweet deal to me.
But the year went on, and just about everybody had his or her bumper sticker. Many people found out where they were going before the New Year, and everything was set from there. To me, their bumper stickers meant they had their lives figured out. It meant they were so certain about where they would be the next year that they would risk putting something on their cars that would rip off the paint if they changed their minds. Naturally, I agonized over waiting for March 28 to hear back from Yale. I told myself that I mainly just wanted to know if my dream college had mutual feelings, but looking back, a big part of me also wanted to know so my life could be together.
The day finally came, and when I clicked on the status update, I saw the congratulatory video. Then I committed a few days after. After coming down from the euphoria of getting in, my bumper sticker was the next order of business. I showed up to school with my new sticker on Monday, and my car joined the sea of stickered cars. No longer was the only item on the back of my car my high school parking sticker. I had a college sticker now, and that meant I was going somewhere.
But it didn’t take long for me to learn that a bumper sticker is not magical and won’t piece my life back together. A few days later, when I was driving home, I stopped abruptly, and the driver behind me took the initiative the honk her horn over the matter. I looked out of my rearview mirror to see what was going on and I remembered that my bumper sticker was on my back window. There it was, displaying my status as a Yalie. I knew that the driver behind me probably thought something of the sticker. I imagine her mumbling to herself, “Oh, you can go to Yale, but you can’t drive?” I was able to move on eventually because in a way, she would be right. I’m not a very good driver. I’ll admit that. But I also realized I had just taken on a new responsibility. Every abrupt stop, or wrong turn, or other silly mistake I made would represent Yale in a sense. What started out as a signal to my fellow classmates that I had my life together had now turned into a signal to everyone I encountered on the road that I go to an Ivy League school, so I probably thought I was better than everyone else.
I feel compelled to roll down my window whenever I do something wrong and explain how my actions do not represent the character of the University as a whole, and I do not have the bumper sticker to intimidate others. But at the time, I figured that might just make the whole ordeal worse.
So, I just decided to keep driving. Whatever people want to think about me, I’m proud to be a Yalie, and I have a right to share that same joy I felt when I first learned of my acceptance. At the end of the day, it’s only a sticker, and nine out of ten people probably won’t take much notice to it. But to that one person who can’t understand that I just want to take pride in my university like everyone else, feel free to humble me and flip me off on the highway.
Kaylee Walsh is a first year in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .