The summer before I entered Yale, I found myself sitting on a pile of old clothes unsure of what to pack. I held each piece up in the air, staring at it for five seconds, before quickly tossing it to the side. That’s not even a cute shirt, I thought. Why did I buy it? The signature tee I wore almost every day in high school was now a wrinkled afterthought tossed in the corner of my closet. I was ready for new clothes, and in a way, a new me.
The moment we step off the podium with our high school diplomas, we are handed an opportunity for reinvention. The clubs, the sports team and the classes we took in high school become insignificant as we enter college.
We don a new T-shirt with the hopes of a fresh start.
This opportunity for me was exciting, liberating even. I didn’t have to be attached to the commitments I made four years ago as a freshman in high school. The things I had enjoyed before no longer gave me the same kind of fulfillment, and I was ready to let them go.
So coming to Yale was like going into the fitting room. I could try on any clothes I wanted without the pressure of having to buy anything. If something didn’t fit, I could just toss it to the side and quickly forget about it as I moved down the line of hangers. That is, after all, the great perk of having a liberal arts education. I could be fearless in trying anything and everything.
When I spoke to upperclassmen, they told me that if I thought I would regret something in the slightest bit, I should try it out. So I did. My first semester was filled with monthlong stints in different clubs and organizations. I joined each one in hopes of finding a community and dropped each one, disappointed with the experiences I had.
Of course, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with quitting something that didn’t make me happy. Like Marie Kondo says, if it doesn’t spark joy, get rid of it. You can outgrow activities in the same way you outgrow your old clothes. If it no longer fits, you simply get new ones.
However, I soon came to realize that I wasn’t dropping these activities because I didn’t like them. I was just scared of missing out on the life-changing experiences everyone in college seemed to be talking about. So hopping from club to club, I spent more time thinking about the idea of being in that club than actually being present in it. Thoughts of what I could be doing instead of standing in a room in Linsly-Chittenden Hall left me disengaged with people and my activities.
I was stuck in the fitting room, pacing circles and circles in front of the mirror and spending an obscene amount of time analyzing myself, unsure of whether I wanted to commit. What if this wasn’t the right fit?
My first semester was motivated by the daunting freedom of choice. Every action I chose left me with a flurry of what ifs, what nows and what nexts that would cloud up my mind with unnecessary thoughts.
There is an ephemeral quality to everything we do here at Yale, and the thought of overlooking any type of experience can be terrifying. We only have four years here, after all, and I want to make the most out of it.
For a lot of us, our interests lie in the intersection of eight-hundred thousand Venn diagram circles, and it doesn’t make sense for us to try everything. Upperclassmen tell you not to feel pressured to commit to anything, but it feels like they mean that you should feel pressure to do everything. We’re all in a hurry to define ourselves through the things we do, and we forget that we are our own human beings independent of those spheres. I was so focused on trying on the clothes, I forgot there was a living, breathing body under the pile of fabric.
So this semester, I’m slowing down, forgetting about the clothes and just focusing on being. After all, you can outgrow your own clothes, but you can’t outgrow your own body.
Joyce Wu | firstname.lastname@example.org .