Every time I reflect on Yale, I think to myself, “I wish I could do it all over.” As I write papers for different classes, immersing myself in the minutiae of French history or examining art from Virginia, Japan and all around the world, I wonder, have I been taking the wrong classes this whole time? Did I pick the wrong major? Inevitably, the closer I get to the end of my Yale career, I feel as though every class slot, every performance, every minute is precious.
But we shouldn’t want to do Yale all over. The classes, the memories and the people we have met have shaped a college experience that is uniquely our own. To throw this all away and start over would be to throw away our growth and our own identities. However you did Yale, you did it just right for you.
Whenever I get rejected from jobs or fellowships, I turn toxic questions over in my mind about ridiculous hypotheticals and ask myself: why didn’t I work harder? Why didn’t I choose a more practical major? Should I have pulled more all-nighters? Spent less time laughing with my friends and attending their shows? It’s easier to take rejections personally than simply accept that sometimes things don’t work out.
There is this feeling that time is slipping away, that everything is a “last” time. And because of this, I place too much pressure on these “lasts” to be perfect and alleviate the burden of my own regrets. I am constricted by my own narrow vision as a Yale student, feeling like there are only months left, and that life after our bright college years will be boring, lonely and never comparable. But, I am only turning 21 this week. To most, my life has barely begun. It’s time we zoom out and realize that we are only beginning our lives, with all the complexities, difficulties and triumphs that they will hold.
But whether or not we care to admit it, many of our peers feel the same way — that now that we’re finally getting the hang of Yale, our time is almost up. If only we had one more chance, we would change so much. We would have never taken five-and-a-half credits in a semester, been shy to introduce ourselves to new people in the dining hall or wasted our time on that stupid boy.
Despite these regrets, the Yale experience I had unequivocally made me the person I am today. As I created the PowerPoint for my society bio, scrolling through thousands of photos accumulated over the years, I reflected on all the experiences — good and bad — that fundamentally shaped the person I’ve become. I couldn’t picture what my life would have been like if I hadn’t met this person or taken this class or even made certain mistakes.
But you can also save others from your mistakes. If you feel strongly about which classes not to take, then you have the opportunity to share that with your younger peers. Dedicate thought to those course evaluations (your grade will not be going anywhere if you dedicate an extra 10 minutes). Be open to giving advice to underclassmen — they’re probably shy so let them know you’re there. You don’t have to be a FroCo to do that. Or, just write an op-ed!
Enjoy the time you have left unencumbered by the pressing feeling of “lasts.” It’s not too late to pursue things you’re passionate about. Sure, it may be too late to switch majors, but since when does our undergraduate major define the rest of our life trajectory? As I talk to underclassmen, there’s this sense that one class, one internship, one special program will dictate the rest of their lives. We need to stop assigning this urgency to every move we make here. Be grateful and thoughtful, but don’t let this obsession with the “perfect” Yale experience consume you. At any point in your Yale career, you can change direction. And remember, even second semester seniors still have time — at Yale and long afterwards.
My point is, try not to stress about the time you have spent thus far at Yale, and try not to stress about what the future holds. Be proactive about the way you spend your time. But also remember, Yale isn’t your peak. The next stage of life is terrifying, but there will be new things in store. After all, it may be nice to look at things through starry eyes again.
HALA EL SOLH is a senior in Berkeley College. Her columns run on alternate Wednesdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .