Editors’ Note: This piece originally appeared in the 2019 Commencement Issue, published on May 20, 2019.
I hate not knowing what comes next. When I was younger, I’d ask my mom to pinch my arm outside the pediatrician’s office, so I could anticipate exactly how the flu shot would feel. The spring before I came to Yale, I watched six seasons of Gilmore Girls, mostly in preparation for my life as a Bulldog. I did my research because I wanted to know what to expect.
And yet, nearly the minute we finished decorating our Old Campus dorms in the fall of 2015, things here began to change, both for us as individuals and for Yale as an institution. This enchanting, frustrating, nurturing, imperfect place has evolved over the last four years, as have we.
We arrived here excited to meet our college masters and discuss our potential majors over lunch at Commons, making acquaintances from across the 12 colleges. We will soon say goodbye to our heads of college and as many as 14 colleges’ worth of friends. We partied at Freshman Screw; incoming classes will get down at First-Year Formal. We now hear women’s voices in the Whiffenpoofs. Some of our peers matriculated to Calhoun College but will graduate from Grace Hopper College.
The latter change is one of the most memorable stories I covered in my three years at the Yale Daily News. A small group of reporters and editors gathered in the book-lined, oak-paneled boardroom early one Saturday morning and heard Yale shatter precedent via conference call. I felt breathless all day, both because my classmates were ecstatic and because I felt lucky to be wrapped up in that moment from the inside. We were writing history.
I reported for the Yale Daily News for two years before serving as editor-in-chief for one more. To say news — and the News, specifically — consumed my life is an understatement. I got involved because I liked journalism, and I stayed involved because 202 York Street became my home and my lifeblood. Writing is different than editing, and reporting is not the same as running a daily newspaper. But in all cases, you get to be a part of something bigger than yourself. You get to shine a light, and tell the truth (Lux et Veritas, so to speak). You get to eat mozzarella sticks after midnight.
The job of editor-in-chief was challenging, rewarding and unpredictable. I left the News building between 1 and 3 a.m. and never knew what to expect in my inbox or calendar when I awoke. I worried about the paper and the people and the pipes and our prospects. But, I also made some of my most meaningful relationships and fondest college memories at the News. I couldn’t have known when I found my way there as an intimidated first year that I would meet many of my journalistic heroes through the paper or have some of my most tear-inducing laughs at a computer cluster at four in the morning.
The irony is not lost on me that both friends and strangers have compared me to Rory Gilmore, the aforementioned fictional Yalie who, like me, hails from Connecticut, loves journalism and led the News. I’m flattered. I’m impressed with the accuracy with which the show depicts the newspaper hats we sometimes wear. And I’m always surprised when people ask whether I came to Yale knowing I wanted to follow this path.
Of course, I didn’t. None of us arrive at Yale knowing exactly what we want to do or who we want to be. If you tell me you’re one of the few who did, I’ll ask you when you changed your mind. And, pardon the cliché, not knowing is the whole point.
If these four years have taught me anything, it’s that unpredictability and uncertainty don’t have to be scary. Change is necessary and can be wonderful. Predictability can be at odds with progress. Yale provides us with the opportunity to grow, and we try to bring it forward with us.
Knowing what tomorrow holds is comforting, unless you want tomorrow to look different. So many students, professors, staff members and administrators work tirelessly to try to make Yale a better community and institution. Yale taught us to love some traditions — beating Harvard, shopping too many classes, demolishing a good pizza, “doing homework” on Cross Campus, reveling in the inherent superiority of our own residential college — while wanting to change others.
There’s still a lot that needs changing at Yale. There’s room for improvement at the News. There’s work for us to do beyond this campus. I’m not here to dictate which battles to choose or how to fight them. What I do believe is that uncertainty is not the monster I once thought it was.
So, as we prepare to leave home again and head out into the uncharted waters of post-grad life, let’s try to embrace the unpredictable and work to change ourselves and our world for the better. I know my peers and my teachers and my friends (who are often one and the same) pretty well, and I know you will succeed.
I’m thankful and nervous and excited at the prospect of leaving this place different than we started it, and not knowing what exactly will happen next. Like many times before, and like many of you, I feel breathless. We are writing our own histories.
Rachel Treisman is a senior in Morse College and the former Editor-in-Chief of the News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .