Annie Zhou

This is a letter to you: Please, stay.

I’m not one for emotional words — you know this. But, maybe I’ve been internalizing my love for too long, and now you’ve begun to doubt whether your presence, or absence, would make a difference to me.

Let me be clear: So much of my Yale experience has been colored by you. There were moments last year when I had only but given up trying to want to be here. I preferred my dark room to the rest of the world, alone and drowning in this deep pit of my mind. And from the black and white, you emerged (skipping, maybe). You knocked down my locked doors with your gel pens and balloons and bright ideas. Let’s go to New York. Let’s make milkshakes. Let’s email President Bush. Let’s give makeovers to the homeless, let’s make paper heads of Olivia and Haley, let’s go apple-picking and corn-mazing and kayaking. Nothing was too big for you. You practically bled sunshine and color, and you eased your way into my life until I was soaked with colors, too.

You taught me a lot about what it means to love really boldly. It’s always you whom I come crying to, you who prays with me, you whom I can dream big with, you who will make posters with me in the middle of night for clubs you know nothing about, and you whom I plan surprise cheer-up gifts with. In my head, I picture us as a team on the cover of a magazine: No sad friends or holiday-themed dinner are too daunting for the two of us to handle.

No major applications, no spiritual lows, no sophomore slump, no heartbreak, no senior-year job searching. Already I’ve begun planning our Halloween costume next year, our road trips. I always imagined us graduating together (somehow we would get around the res college blocked sections), throwing our caps up in the air. We did it. *WE* did it. Together.

I don’t know how to better express this but my college life would be so much grayer without you; washed out, void of color. I will survive if you leave. I will be fine. But, my heart will be broken. It’s already slowly breaking, as I write this letter and come to terms with a future at Yale completely different than the one I have been picturing.

If only my feelings were enough reason for you to stay.

I am so sorry that you feel hopeless and overwhelmed and isolated and ignored. There are many things that Yale should be doing better.

Certain classes are really good at making you feel responsible for not knowing things that nobody has ever taught you. There most certainly exists at Yale, people who care more about the change they can enact on their own resumes than the change they can enact in the world. It’s despairing and stressful; and I am constantly reminded of my shortcomings.

But I have also never been part of such a diverse group of people, or pushed so far beyond my comfort zone. It’s not even the academic rigor so much as it is being forced to make choices, to accept my limits and figure out what exactly I want to spend my time doing.

I also feel inspired daily. It’s not in the obvious ways that Yale was sold to me as an unknowing 16-year-old: it’s not the small seminars or the accolade-winning guest lecturers or the close-knit residential college system. It’s watching the otherwise intimidating college seniors give up their time to plan a summer camp for a bunch of 6-year-olds that makes me feel really inspired. It’s reading articles about the latest language-acquisition research that makes me impatient to return to class. It’s listening to my FOOT leader talk about his childhood that encourages introspection. It’s seeing the first-years in Bible Study embark on their faith journeys and learn to love each other, and the list goes on. All of these things fill me up in ways that no prescribed “experience” ever could.

There was a time last year when I, too wanted desperately to leave. I refused to get close with anyone, I counted down the days until break, I kept asking my home friends how their schools were, how they were doing, had I made a mistake? And then, I started finding these things, one by one, person by person, moment by moment, in staccatoed, unpredictable ways that made me reconsider. [One of those — a big one — was you.]

I know you will be unimpressed by my taking to the News to write this letter; that’s fine. I’m not pushing you to do Yale the way that I do; I’m only arguing that there exists a Yale out there in which you thrive, without having to compromise.

At the end of the day, I want you to feel the conviction that I do, that there is a home and so many possibilities. I want you to be happy first and foremost. And if you ultimately decide that somewhere ELSE is where you need to be, I will support you and love you and distance won’t have anything on us.

But before you make that call, please consider my last appeal: Even before you stepped foot on campus, you knew you would eventually return home. Maybe a tiny part of you wondered if the Northeast winds could blow your heart a different direction, but from the time I first knew you — you were a country girl through and through. Then, know that this period of your life — where you feel uncomfortable and different, pushed in so many directions that your head spins, your beliefs tested and your identity put on trial — is very temporary. You might never be in a situation like this again, once you leave. And Yale, and the people in it — me included — will never again get the chance to grow with you and be painted by you. I don’t want you to cut that time short, for you, for me, for everyone else.

That’s all I have to say. Thank you for reading this whole thing and thank you for being my best friend.

Love you always, no matter where you are.

Audrey

Audrey Huang | audrey.huang@yale.edu .