The excited chatter of pre-frosh permeates the air. The sun gently blankets Old Campus. Images of my future here flicker through my mind with pure elation. I am ready to make Yale home.
Today would have marked the beginning of Bulldog Days. For the class of 2023, it’s a reminder of how much has changed in the past year. We’ve started a new chapter of our lives at Yale. But just as we had begun to settle down — solidifying our relationships and finding our communities — COVID-19 abruptly halted our progress. Many of us are left without closure to the question: Is Yale our home? As the weeks of quarantine roll by, familiar high-school memories trickle back. Meanwhile, our lives at Yale drift further away. We lose touch.
Home supports identity, clarifies purpose and, most of all, makes us feel accepted. Away from campus, Yale can feel more like a home in name than a home in spirit. But Yale is undoubtedly where we belong. We already identify ourselves with the people we have met and the communities we have joined in our brief time. We want to go back. We want to grow here.
Still, our confusion illustrates how malleable we are. We’re in a strange middle ground where past relationships and endeavors are still relatable and current ones are still novel. Rather than committing to one chapter and abandoning the other, we should take advantage of this unique position. We should use our time at home to arrive at closure from our pasts and to prepare for our time at Yale with renewed vigor.
It’s essential that we reflect on our past experiences in the right way. On some occasions, I dive back into high-school nostalgia, longing to return to close knit teams, conversations with my teachers and precious moments with friends. Other times, I want to drive all of high school out of my mind. I want to move on. Neither response is constructive; we can’t get high-school days back, but we shouldn’t avoid remembering just how passionately and excited we could feel before. It often feels like college has dulled the intensity and range of our emotions.
If we can appreciate memories without unproductive longing, we can arrive at closure. We can make something of our past. Our fondest memories reveal important passions and settings — teams, service, art — that we have turned away from in college. Upon reflection, we may realize we miss some of these deeply; they may be constitutive to our identities. The onus is on us to confront the past, analyze these feelings and use them to enrich our Yale experience moving forward. If we arrive at closure from four years of high-school experiences, we can eventually arrive at closure to our awkward first year.
Most of all, time away from campus is an opportunity to reflect on how we approach our time at Yale. For many of us, that means appreciating just how much Yale means to us. Anticipation can often be more exciting than moments themselves. This was the case throughout much of my first year. I felt infinitely more grateful during Bulldog Days than each day first semester when I sparred with adjustments and even entertained the thought of transferring. Sometimes we need to be shaken from our affinity to criticism. We shouldn’t normalize the greatness of our friendships, communities, professors and resources. We should be unabashedly thankful.
Yale coddles first years. When the next school year begins, we will no longer live together on Old Campus, meet with Frocos or have an array of events specifically designed for us. We won’t have the final elements of the first-year experience waiting to resume so we can comfortably tuck the year away.
Still, we can bring matured purpose and appreciation. When we come back to Yale, we should walk around the beautiful campus and imagine we’re absorbing it for the first time. We should return with fresh attitudes on what new communities to join, activities to explore and causes to support. Closure may not be immediate, and that’s okay.
During Bulldog Days, our exuberant high-school selves couldn’t wait to make Yale the nexus of our lives. Now, Yale is home. As past and present collide away from campus, we should take the time to close old doors and reflect on new ones.
EDWARD SEOL is a first year in Berkeley College. His column runs on alternate Mondays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .