A few weeks ago, my friend Allan Wu ’20 wrote a beautiful article in the News on the premature close of our college narratives. In it, he mourns all the stolen endings, memories and experiences that would have filled our last months on campus. After I heard the news that we would not return back to Yale, I felt a void open in my life — a hole that the daily Zoom meetings and Facetime calls could not fill. As I try to make a list of all these stolen memories, the emptiness grows larger, and I find myself craving the small moments — the ones that seemed to amount to nothing — the most.
I miss those seemingly unimportant blips in our lives at Yale: the time that we are not sitting in class or studying for another test. These small moments will not be listed on our degrees or assessed in our grades. We don’t go to Yale just for the A’s and B’s, diplomas or even to attend our classes. The last few weeks have shown that, with some effort, we can do all of that from home in pajamas. Instead, we go for the moments when we feel like we are doing nothing. These moments — when I am surrounded by the people that I love, in the place that we call home — are the ones that can’t be replaced.
It is the insignificant moment when I am going on a late GHeav run at 1:00 a.m., the moment when I am sitting on the bus to go to practice with my teammates and when my suitemates and I all come together at the end of the day to laugh and argue and talk into the morning for no reason at all but just to be together.
It is the moment we are standing in line for Woads or mulling about at Spring Fling. It is the moment when we try in vain to find one of those group study rooms at the bottom of Bass, and it is those fleeting minutes that friends have before they sit down to conquer the weekly problem set.
These moments live and thrive on our campus. They occupy our common rooms, dining halls, libraries, butteries and walkways. These are the walks to classes and the chicken-tender lunches. They are the times we curse New England weather and then rush to Cross Campus for an impromptu picnic. These are all the rooftop conversations, bowls of Junzi late-night, buttery quesadillas, IM victories, those damn Silliman doors, hammocks, all the first-year treks from Old Campus to dinner and all the times we waited to be swiped into suite parties and tried to find a bathroom in WLH.
These are the unnotable, day-by-day idiosyncrasies, routines and rituals that we all share. In the present, they are easily forgotten as we rush to class or cram for a test, but as we grow old, and our memories from this place begin to fade, they will be the only things that we will remember. Last month, these were all the moments that I took for granted, never knowing that they could be stolen. Today, these are the memories I long for the most.
If our Yale experience is a narrative with a beginning, middle and end, as Wu suggested, these memories are the margins, the space between the lines and the ink that we use to write our stories. To the best of our abilities, we can replace our classes and augment our learning through new methods, but the rest of Yale cannot be replicated.
As the world enters a new chapter, doing nothing takes on a much more significant meaning. As we responsibly distance ourselves, our isolated, intermediate moments become contracted and labored. Zoom sessions become islands of normalcy and our days lengthen with loneliness. Without our places and our people, these moments of nothing lose their meaning — and their completeness.
In the coming months, when we eventually find ourselves back on campus, find your own moment of nothing and cherish it, because without it, Yale wouldn’t be home.
JACKSON DU PONT is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .