I got off the train from New Haven at Grand Central Terminal and started looking for the 1 line, eager to get home after my first month and a half at Yale. As I searched , I came to the realization (after three whole minutes of looking) that the No. 1 train is actually on the West Side, not the East. So much for my 18 years of growing up in New York.
To be fair, I was tired and very disoriented. Travel does that to you. And travel after a week of midterms and papers does that to you even more. But the more I acclimated back to my old life, before Yale, before late nights in Bass Library and before large lectures where I could just blend into the crowd, I realized that this moment in the train station was not as simple as it seemed.
Meeting up with friends and family, I understood just how much I had missed. One of my closest friends went through a whole relationship since the last time we spoke: She met him, liked him, broke up with him –– the whole nine yards. My brother, a senior in college, got his first job opportunity. My dad had surgery and is only now getting back on his feet. It was so nice to come back to my old life, to dip my foot in and remember how things used to be.
But this is not an ode to the past, a “remember-the-good-old-days” article. I’m not just talking about homesickness or missing old friends. I’m talking about how much we lose out on by not staying rooted in the worlds we come from. We all lived at least 18 years outside of these 10 square blocks before we got here. That’s 18 years of life that made each of us who we are today. College should not be a complete reset button. It should enrich the people we already are.
Yale does a really good job at making its students adjust, adapt and change during their time here. That’s what makes the experience so valuable. But make sure you hold on to what made you laugh and smile in the last chapter of your life. Those parts of your existence shouldn’t just evaporate now that you’re a Yalie.
I have taken the 1 train at least 3,000 times in my life. After just over a month at college, there was something different about sitting next to the woman talking too loudly on her phone, about having to politely bark “excuse me” at the guy wearing headphones blocking the exit. I didn’t feel like a stranger, but I also wasn’t exactly a local (see paragraph one). That might sound scary, but it can also be an exciting challenge to stay connected to your past life despite college and all of its newness.
My grandmother called me up just about 15 minutes after I got back to New York. She wanted to get dinner, of course. Eating dinner with my grandparents was the most “home” I felt in the last two months. Seeing them argue over their classic topics — can we fit into the parking space, should we buy dessert, what is the name of that one family whose youngest daughter just got engaged — was so familiar that I could only respond with a smile, as opposed to my usual eye roll.
I often struggle with the tone of opinion writing because I need to sound like I know more than all my readers. I don’t. But here are my words of wisdom and you can take them or leave them. Call home. Ask your mom how she’s feeling after her recent conference in Virginia. Ask your dad if his back is still hurting and if you could bring him anything on your way home. Listen to a song from way back when and Skype that high school friend you haven’t spoken to in three months.
College can swoop you up with such ease. It can make you forget where to find the right train line and what your grandparents sound like arguing in public. Don’t let it. As much as Yale should change us during our time here, it should never make us lose the parts of ourselves that make us who we are.
Gabriel Klapholz is a first year in Branford College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .