I quit reporting for the Yale Daily News at the midpoint of my Yale career, the summer before my junior year. As I spent time in Turkey, I reflected on my time at the News — the decision made perfect sense. I wanted a change; I wanted freedom from all my commitments; I wanted to make the most out of the two years I had left at Yale.
But here I am, writing again in the pages of the News, almost half a year after my 134th — and last — story. I simply cannot leave as elegantly as I imagined. The sense of withdrawal is poignant. The light and laughter flowing out of the windows of 202 York Street are enchanting. I miss the News, multiple times a day.
It felt almost like a breakup, not that I have been through many of those — thank god. And all breakups are alike: You send that text — a multi-paragraph email, in my case — or if you are better and braver, tell them in person. You listen to their confusion and assure them that it’s good for both of you, even as your mind is already occupied by all the wonderful and wild possibilities of a single life — the 3 p.m. office hours you can attend, reading past page 10 for your seminar, actually fulfilling “let’s get a meal” promises … You will try all of these things, until the third Monday after the breakup, when you wake up and start to think of the past, crying to the mirror. Then, the pain sinks in.
For those outside of the News, this may seem absurd: It’s just an extracurricular — what’s the fuss? But the News was the single most important part of my Yale experience. I skipped classes for court hearings, stayed up until early hours to follow a lead and hunched over my laptop for hours cold-calling sources.
The News consumed all of my free time. While it was stressful, it provided an easy meaning to life — or so it seemed.
Walking into the dining hall before my 9 a.m. class and seeing people reading my stories filled me with pride; receiving emails from strangers thanking me for my work sent a shiver down my spine; having my professor point at the front page and tell me that my writing had improved greatly since Directed Studies was a relief.
What do I miss? First, it’s the camaraderie. I met some of my first and closest friends at Yale after we were assigned to work on the same story. From the Old Campus bench where we first strategized, we have been through thick and thin, uncooperative sources and impossible deadlines, forming bonds as colleagues and families. Next, it’s the structure. I was at the building every other night for the entirety of my sophomore year — the same lovely faces, the same Claire’s cakes on Tuesdays, the same interviewing, writing and editing. Lastly, it’s the identity. I can’t blame my friends who have introduced me as a reporter for the News because that’s how I’ve introduced myself. The affiliation is an easy shorthand for a personality that I more or less identify with, a stamp that I place on myself.
Having to come up with three stories every week made life easier. I didn’t have to do much thinking. I was busy and getting attention — I felt like I must have been doing something right.
But life after Yale is nothing like that. No one will tell you what to spend your free time doing, or structure it in a way that is easy for you. No one will be waiting for you to facilitate a club meeting when you come back from work on a Monday. No one will pay attention to you if you watch Netflix for three hours a day. You may as well be living alone.
In order for us to make the most of our lives post-Yale, we need to grapple with how to fill our free time on our own terms. I am struggling, day by day, to fill my newly gained free time in a productive way. I am struggling, every time I meet someone new, to introduce myself without mentioning the News. All this means creating a self-identity independent from clubs, social groups or established entities. It means seeking your own meaning, claiming your own space at Yale and in the world.
For those who are stuck in a constant loop, who no longer find the same meaning in their positions that they once did, who are considering post-Yale life: You will have doubts along the way, but please be confident that you are still the same you, who once upon a time, found yourself convinced of a breakup. There is no going back — the only road lies ahead. I am nervous, curious and excited. I invite you to join me on this journey.
Jingyi Cui is a junior in Grace Hopper College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .